Interview with out pianist Sara D.Buechner

By Helen Polychronakos

Sara Davis Buechner

2. A successful pianist risks her career

--Thank you for agreeing to share your story with Tokyo Wrestling!

I'm pleasantly surprised to see a website like this because I remember going to Kyoto with my-here I call her my partner but in Canada we're married-my partner, Kayoko, and we finally found a gay bar or somewhere to get a drink, and there was no address, nothing. It's amazing how underground things are here. I don't really have a sense that people here get all militantly puritanical like they are in the states, but sometimes it's sort of like, hidden.

Sara Davis Buechner

--Maestro Robert Ryker of the Tokyo Sinfonia with whom you performed last Wednesday told me you're an extremely accomplished pianist. Tell us a little about your career and how you built such a reputation.

After graduating from the Julliard School, I played a very successful New York debut and got nice reviews. I entered competitions and I won a number of prizes. I worked hard, I was skilled, but I've also had my good share of luck. In my thirties, I began to teach there too. I was teaching at Manhattan School of Music and also New York University.

And then of course the big change in my life. Coming to grips with being transgendered in my mid-thirties. I had actually been married in my previous life and very closeted and very in denial. It began to be an unconquerable...I don't want to say problem, but I was denying myself and my real identity. I was acting the part of having a life instead of having a life. At around 35 or 36 I made the decision to transition.

I was a little naïve to think that it wouldn't be, you know, the end of the world.

But in fact my artistic life ended. I had an agent who no longer seemed to find work for me. Students weren't eager to study with me. I was thinking, since the concerts weren't coming, to try to get into academia, and I applied to universities. Most of them I didn't get any answers, you know?

-- Had you transitioned at that time?

Well, nobody's, like, "Yesterday I was a guy and now I'm a gal!" It's a slow process. It was difficult and painful. I was seen cross-dressing. People talked about me. I became an object of rumour and gossip. Which truly surprised me, you know? Classical music is not like rock music, where everybody knows you. It's kind of a quiet, artistic profession. So to hear that so-and-so saw you wearing a dress on 10th avenue and then told everyone, it was shocking, and I was like, What!?! What's the big deal? I was just trying to find out who I was.

Anyway, that was a tumultuous time in my life. There were many, many painful times.

Photo: Helen Polychronakos

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