It’s tough to practice trombone in a closet. Besides the obvious space issue, there’s a subconscious restraint that happens to sound and technique. During my time studying at Eastman, we would regularly break into some of the largest rooms in school in order to work on resonance and projection of sound -- our musical identity. Even today, I’m always encouraging my students to “fill the room with sound”, no matter how big or small that room may be.
A few months ago, I was up for a job at a college whose policies frowned upon public declarations of support for LGBT causes, let alone being out at work. Without thinking, I found myself deleting parts of my social media, editing my interview process, and worrying about what would happen to my life if I did take the position. Luckily, someone more qualified than me took over before that idea could come to pass. The guilt has been nagging me ever since. Somewhere along the way I learned that being gay equated to shame, and even years of living in Andersonville with supportive family and friends can’t entirely shake that training. It feels an awful lot like trying to practice in the Eastman dungeons, barely able to reach sixth position.
I’m writing this to come out of whatever closet might be left in my non-musical life. I’m a member of the LGBT community -- if you didn’t know that, congratulations! You learned something today.
To borrow a line from my favorite songwriter, Jenny Owen Youngs, the list of things I would rather do other than talking about being gay includes shredding with a live band, plotting trips to South America, and watching the Cubs win the World Series. As a native Midwesterner (a label far more indicative of my personality and values), the last thing I want is make people uncomfortable. I also don’t want one part of me to overshadow the other parts, in the same way I’m tired of answering questions about what it’s like to be a chick who plays trombone. Spoiler alert: loud noises and conversations about beer are the same regardless of your orientation.
My hope in putting this out into the universe is visibility -- young people like my students need to read over and over that they are not alone, and that their dreams deserve to be equally visible. Emphasis on the equal.
I am proud to add my voice to the chorus of far more eloquent artists who have already stepped forward. I am grateful for the role models who make it possible for me to exist as a gay lady playing giant metal tube for a living. Most importantly, I am trying my best to do well by them -- which means I should probably go practice.