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June 2016
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15 Classical Musicians Who Are Out and Proud



June is LGBT Pride Month, and we are celebrating musicians who are out and proud. Besides just inspiring audience through their talents as musicians, the people below inspire others by being true to themselves. Tell us who your favorite out and proud musicians are in the comments below.

  1. Jean-Yves Thibaudetjean-yves-thibaudet

    Gramophone Award winner and Grammy nominee Jean-Yves Thibaudet has performed with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the LA Philharmonic, and the Orchestre National de France. Beyond his extensive honors (like this impressive lifetime achievement award from the Victoires de la Musique), the pianist also has a killer concert wardrobe designed by the highly esteemed Vivienne Westwood.

    Thibaudet lives between Paris and Los Angeles with his long-time partner of twenty-one years, Paul. According to this article from 2003, Thibaudet will not attend events if his partner is not invited as well. Though Thibaudet mostly plays classical music, the couple is very fond of jazz, as well as Latin pop. (Jean-Yves admits that Paul often keeps him up to date on the latest music).

    Watch Thibaudet play Debussy’s beautiful piece “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” here.

  2. Our Lady J
    OUR LADY J - photo Christopher Dibble

    As a classically trained pianist, Our Lady J has collaborated with diverse artists from Lady Gaga to Christine Ebersole in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to Lincoln Center. She released her first studio album in 2013 titled “Picture of a Man” featuring Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1 and 2, a rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” and a few original songs.

    In addition to her thriving career as a pianist, Our Lady J is also a writer for the Golden Globe winning TV show “Transparent,” a comedy series that focuses on a family and their lives after they learn that their father is transgender. Our Lady J has been included in OUT Magazines “Out 100” and Huffington Post’s list of transgender icons. She’s also written about the politics of language and the transgender community for the Huffington Post.

    Watch Our Lady J perform one of her original songs from her album Picture of a Man here.

  3. Sharon IsbinSharon Isbin

    Multiple Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin has been a soloist with over 170 orchestras. She frequently premieres music by living composers like John Corigliano and Ned Rorem. Isbin was the featured soloist on Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning The Departed, and there’s even a documentary about her life.

    When she is not touring the world, this Minneapolis native founded the guitar department at the Juilliard School in 1989, and currently serves as its director. She is also the director of the guitar department at the Aspen Music Festival. Isbin cites her performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards (where she was the only classical musician who performed that evening) as one of her career highlights.

    She has also had the honor of performing for the Obama family at the White House in 2009. Watch here.

  4. Patricia RacettePatricia Racette

    A self-identified “singing actress,” Patricia Racette is most noted for her portrayals in Tosca, Jenůfa, Kátya Kabanová, and Il trittico. She is so dedicated to her acting, that when preparing to perform the role of Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly, she flew all the way to Japan so that she could learn about seppuku, ritual suicide, from samurai.

    Racette has won many awards, including the Richard Tucker Award, and tours ten months out of the year to venues such as The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, and the Royal Opera House. When not touring, Racette and her wife, mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton, live in the outskirts of Santa Fe with their dog, Sappho.

    Watch her sing “Un bel dì” from Madame Butterfly the Met here.

  5. David DanielsDavid Daniels

    Countertenor David Daniels has enjoyed success with performances in the world’s most prestigious venues and several critically-acclaimed albums. He received the prestigious Richard Tucker Award and Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year. He was the first countertenor to give a solo recital in the auditorium of Carnegie Hall! Recently, Daniels premiered the title role in Theodore Morrison’s opera Oscar, which dramatizes the persecution of Oscar Wilde.

    In an interview with WFMT, Daniels said, “What I learned while I was rehearsing Oscar is that there was a lot of pent-up emotion—even though I’ve been openly gay, even though I have a partner, even though I was out to my parents and there was no rejection from my family. I think as a young gay man, you always are aware of discrimination, and to be telling this story in rehearsals with all of my cast and all of us there together in love, telling the story of this man, it just brought all of this emotion out.”

    Oscar also encouraged Daniels to propose to his now husband, William Scott Walters, in the summer of 2014. He recently began teaching at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, and still maintains a very active performance career.

    Watch him perform the title role of Giulio Cesare at the Metropolitan Opera House here.

  6. Emmanuel VassEmmanuel Vass

    Identified by BBC Music magazine as a “Rising Star,” Emmanuel Vass has recorded two solo albums. He has performed at venues like London’s Steinway Hall and Queen’s Theatre West End. In January of 2012, Vass was named Yamaha’s “Unsigned Artist of the Month”.

    The British-Filipino pianist wants to change the way the media presents classical music. In a photo shoot in 2015, Vass painted his body to look like a piano. In an article from, Vass explains, “As a piano player I play something external, but it is a part of me – there has to be a connection between you and the instrument. I wanted to explore that link.” Vass has yet to wear his “piano suit” on stage since, he said, “The music deserves a certain level of respect.”

    Enjoy his recording of the “James Bond Concert Etude,” which he created in honor of the James Bond 50th Anniversary here.

  7. Sebrina Maria AlfonsoSebrina Maria Alfonso

    Cuban-American conductor Sebrina Maria Alfonso is the resident music director of the South Florida Symphony. In 1994, she won the Stokowski International Competition and made her debut with the American Symphony Orchestra. Alfonso is the first Cuban-American invited to conduct the National Orchestra of Cuba in Havana. She has served as guest conductor for the LA Philharmonic, Aspen Music Festival Orchestra, and Prague Radio Symphony.

    Alfonso is also a composer who recently premiered her composition “Freedom Crossing,” a commemoration of the Mariel Cuban boat-crossing in which many people died while trying to attain freedom.

    See her conduct the South Florida Symphony here.

  8. Yannick Nézet-SéguinNezet-Seguin-Yannick

    Yannick Nézet-Séguin was recently appointed the Metropolitan Opera’s next music director. Currently, he serves as the music director for both the Philadelphia Orchestra and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the artistic director and principal conductor of the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal.

    Nézet-Séguin currently lives with his partner Pierre Tourville, a violist in the Orchestre Métropolitain. They split their time between Montreal and Philadelphia with their three cats.

    Watch Yannick do what he does best at a rehearsal with The Philadelphia Orchestra here.

  9. Breanna Sinclairébreanna sinclaire

    Though she just graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2014, Breanna Sinclairé has already made history. In 2015, Sinclairé became the first transgender woman to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” at a professional sporting event!

    Sinclairé has funded her transition by hosting several recitals. She performed selections from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Bizet’s Carmen, and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Sinclairé’s story has caught the attention of major news outlets like The Wall Street Journal and OUT Magazine.

    Watch her sing the national anthem here.

  10. Jamie BartonJamie Barton

    While still a student at Indiana University Bloomington, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton won the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. That year, the competition was filmed for the documentary The Audition. In 2013, Barton became the first woman, and only second person in history, to win both the Song Prize and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. She has also won the Richard Tucker and Marian Anderson Award.

    The 2015-2016 season, she made her house debuts at the Glimmerglass Opera and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Barton is very open about her personal life and came out as bisexual on National Coming Out Day.

    Enjoy her award winning performance at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Final in 2013 here.

  11. Tona BrownTONA-BROWN

    Tona Brown is the first African American transgender woman to perform for the Obama family at the White House. Brown is also the first transgender woman of color to perform at Carnegie Hall.

    A violinist and mezzo-soprano, she has performed works for violin and voice throughout the U.S. and Europe. Some of Tona’s other projects include her 2012 album titled “This Is Who I Am” and her online TV series Conversations with Tona Brown.

    Watch an excerpt from a recital that she performed in Maryland here.

  12. Nicholas PhanNicholas Phan

    Grammy-nominated tenor Nicholas Phan has performed with the San Fransisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and other renowned orchestras and ensembles. A former member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Phan has released three albums.

    Phan’s most recent solo album, A Painted Tale, was reviewed as the Best Classical Album of 2015 by the Chicago Tribune and received high praise in Opera News. A lover of art song and vocal chamber music, Phan co-founded the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC) in 2010.

    Watch him perform selections from Britten’s Les Illuminations here.

  13. Stephen Hough

    Stephen Hough

    A self-described polymath, Stephen Hough is a highly regarded pianist, composer, and writer. He has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, among other orchestras. He has performed solo recitals at Carnegie Hall‘s Stern Auditorium, the main stage of the Concertgebouw, and London’s Royal Festival Hall. Hough is the first classical musician to have been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He has also been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

    Hough lives in London with his partner who is a music publicist. He is a member of the Juilliard School faculty and holds a visiting professorship at the Royal Academy of Music.

    Watch Hough play Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini” at the BBC Proms here.

  14. Jill Grove

    Mezzo-soprano Jill Grove has impressed audiences around in operas by Handel, Wagner, Strauss. She caught the attention of audiences during her performance of Strauss’s Elektra recently at the Lyric Opera of Chicago because of a unique costuming decision. Klytamnestra, Grove’s character, was originally supposed to be topless.

    Grove said in an interview with The Windy City Times, “In the pictures they showed me, I pointed out that real women’s breasts don’t do that—they just don’t sit there.

    “So the next option was to just build them with a silicone prosthetic. So last year I went in and they did a mold of my upper torso and made a whole cast for these breasts that are relatively real—and they look great!”

    See Grove get into another interesting costume for a Lyric Opera production in a video here.

  15. Jory Vinikour


    Jory Vinikour is the first harpsichordist in history to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Solo Instrumental Recording – and he was nominated a second time, as well. His repertoire ranges from Rameau to Meltzer, and he is often engaged to perform with the finest opera companies around the world, including Paris Opera, Netherlands Opera, and Teatro Real de Madrid. As the harpsichord soloist in Handel’s Rinaldo in a production mounted by Lyric Opera of Chicago, Vinikour earned hearty ovations from the audience and high praise from the New York Times.

    Vinikour recorded and toured with some of the greatest artists of our time, including David Daniels, Cecilia Bartoli, and Anne Sofie von Otter.

    A native of Chicago, Vinikour spent much of his life working in France, where he traveled on a Fulbright Scholarship and ended up staying for quite some time. He recently returned to the Windy City, where he regularly leads performances with local ensembles in addition to a busy schedule of performances around the world.

    Enjoy Vinikour tearing it on the keyboards here.

  • Moo Lynn

    Where is Marin Alsop?

    • G.R. Downtown

      She is in Baltimore.

      • MWnyc

        And São Paulo.

    • MWnyc

      I don’t know that I’d describe Alsop as “out and proud” in quite the same way. She’s not in the closet, really, and she certainly doesn’t pretend to be straight, but her standard answer when a journalist asks about her personal life is, “It’s going very well, thank you.”

      That’s entirely her right, of course – and considering that the mere fact of her being a female conductor continues to receive so much attention, I think it’s probably wise for her to keep discussion of her personal life off the table.

  • Rob NYNY

    “I Will Always Love You” is Dolly Parton’s, not Whitney Houston’s.

  • Gunther Montez

    Not sure why this is newsworthy. These artists’ talents and genius eclipse their personal preferences and tendencies.

    • Evan

      I found this article because I google searched “transgender classical musicians.” I was wondering if there were classical musicians who were out and living their authentic self, as I am currently studying in university and feel afraid to come out as who I am. Articles like these are very important for youth and other classical musicians to know that they are not alone and that others are being extremely successful.

  • Mo86

    Good grief! Who cares what anyone’s sexual desires and behaviors are?

    • Miki de Blas

      I do, and many of us whose voices have been silenced for too long do

  • Ted Mann Schaller

    So glad to see Breanna Sinclairé included here. Her story is an absolute inspiration! <3 SFGMC