Aug. 29, 2012 - Issue #880: LP
Sara Davis Buechner
Fri, Aug 31 (7 pm)
Part of Symphony Under the Sky
Concerts run until Mon, Sep 3
'I wouldn't say I was drawn to the piano so much as the piano swallowed me up," says piano virtuoso Sara Davis Buechner ahead of her Edmonton performance at Symphony Under the Sky.
The piano became a fascination for Buechner from a very young age. She recalls beginning to play when she was only three or four years old, when her older brother began taking lessons.
"The teacher would come to the house and my mother pushed her to listen to me, the young one, but she didn't want to teach me at that point. She said I was too young," Buechner adds. "Eventually I started to play all of the pieces in my brother's book and she couldn't ignore me anymore."
From there, Buechner's talents continued to flourish and at age 17 she packed her bags and left her hometown of Baltimore for the bright lights of New York City to attend the legendary Juilliard School, eventually earning her doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music.
"I feel very fortunate to be able to do that for my life's work. It's always been a great passion of mine to make music and I'm very fortunate in the sense that I never really felt I had to work for a living," says Buechner, who, amidst a vibrant international recording and performing career, is passing on her knowledge to a new generation of musicians at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. "That's kind of really the way you pay for all those years of lessons is passing it on."
However, the road to the top hasn't always been without its challenges for Buechner, who underwent gender reassignment surgery and became a woman publicly in 1998.
"I suppose I'm in the position of writing some books about what life is like from both sides of the gender divide, but that's too big for your column," Buechner jokes. "You really find that in general sometimes women are not taken as seriously as men, that's for sure; a couple of funny statements in reviews here and there. I think the hardest thing to deal with was there were other performers, particularly conductors, who I'd worked with a lot when I was a man who would not work with me after the gender change. I guess it was just too challenging for them to deal with, you know?"
Buechner has found Canada to be more accepting of the issue, as well as the younger generation of conductors and musicians joining the industry. She says that despite the challenges she's been able to keep her sights set on what is important and didn't let herself become discouraged.
"For the older conductors who didn't want to work with me, there were younger ones that did, so I felt kind of encouraged about that, about the willingness of younger people to evaluate me on the basis of my music, rather than things that have nothing to do with that," she says optimistically. "I think we all make our way through this life encouraged by humanity in some aspects and discouraged by its other aspects."
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