Home Uncategorized What It’s Like to Be Out in Classical Music

What It’s Like to Be Out in Classical Music

As part of its 2020 Pride Issue, Billboard is spotlighting the experiences of artists and executives working in genres that are not always included in conversations about Pride in the music industry. Here, Maggie Heskin — senior director of editorial at Boosey & Hawkes — describes finding a community among LGBTQ trailblazers.

In the past, classical music was very conservative. I got into this business in the ’90s, when it was the end of the old world. It was mostly older straight white men with white hair as far as I could tell. I started at [sheet-music publisher] Carl Fischer, and it was hard for someone like me to be out without getting a look or two, which did happen. I was very sensitive to that, so I wouldn’t go around tooting whom I was with. I wasn’t very brave.

You had people like Leonard Bernstein that were gay and were open, but that was not the norm. There were composers who really broke down some barriers, like David Del Tredici, who is very open and always has been — sometimes, I think, to the detriment of his career. He’s definitely someone I look up to and speak to often. Ned Rorem is another I really admire: He’s 96 and has always been an out gay man. These names are real inspirations to me, and they are my community.

I was walking on Broadway a few months ago and bumped into [composer-performer] Meredith Monk, whose music I’ve worked on. She has been a mentor as an out lesbian in this crazy, conservative classical music world, and it was just so nice to tell her, “My partner and I finally got married a few years ago.”

It’s incredible how my life has changed completely in 20 years. Compared with back in 2000, when I came out professionally, I’m so much more of a calm person in the workplace. I come in now talking about a movie I watched with my wife and think nothing of it because I’m surrounded by gay people, transgender people. It’s very refreshing how diverse the office gets within the LGBTQ world. I wish Bernstein was alive today to witness this.

This article originally appeared in the June 13, 2020 issue of Billboard.

Pride 2020 isn’t canceled. Join Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter’s Pride Summit & Pride Prom on Saturday (June 13) starting at 12:30 p.m. ET for performances, queer conversation, drag, artist cameos, glam sessions, DJs, dancing and more.

Must Read

Mach-Hommy & Westside Gunn Are Having Their Ric Flair-Bobby Heenan Championship Run

When wrestling legend Ric Flair entered the 1992 WWE Royal Rumble, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan stood right by the 16-time world champion as he...

DaBaby, H.E.R., Tyler, The Creator, Leon Bridges & More: What’s Your Favorite New Music Release? Vote!

Music lovers had some great new releases to dive into this week, including standouts from DaBaby, H.E.R., Tyler, The Creator, and more. Billboard wants...

Which of Taylor Swift’s Re-Recorded ‘Red’ Songs Are You Most Excited to Hear? Vote!

Now that Taylor Swift has announced her next album re-recording project, Billboard wants to know: Which Red song are you most excited to hear...

See the Best Fan Responses to Taylor Swift’s Surprise ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ News

Swifties are a pretty savvy bunch, deciphering clues and Easter eggs that Taylor Swift drops like breadcrumbs across her social media profiles and public...

Myke Towers & Juhn’s ‘Bandido’ Hits No. 1 on Latin Airplay Chart

Myke Towers and Juhn’s “Bandido” jumps 10-1 on Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart (dated June 19), earning Towers his fifth No. 1 and Juhn his first...