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The Story of A Transgender Pianist — Sara Davis Buechner

How do you judge someone? By the talent, or by the race or gender?

As much as we would like to think that we’re open-minded enough to judge people by their abilities rather than the gender or race, but the fact is when I tell you someone is an Indian women and you will have the stereotype of the person being a housewife at a remote village rather than a manager of a well known company.

And now, picture yourself a 50 years old transgender American. What came to your mind? Think about it for 5 seconds and picture that.

Now I am about to tell you that she was once a child prodigy, and now a very talented pianist that won numerous awards and performs over 60 concerts a year today. Did you see that coming?

But Sara Davis Buechner did have a time when she was discriminated and lost most of her jobs when she came out as a transgender during the height of her career as David Buechner.

This is a story of a transgender pianist that made her way back to the stage and proud of it. Read on.

Sex Changes Everything?

Before you go on, just click play on the video below. If this is what Sara Davis Buechner is capable of doing, what happened in the 5 years after she undergone sex change operation and came out as a transgender at the age of 39?


Sara Davis Buechner performs Kouji Taku’s Variations on a theme of Poulenc

Think about it. Sara Davis Buechner had established herself as a reputable pianist for the past 39 years. New York Times called her “an extraordinary young artist” when she made her debut as David Buechner in the New York City debut. She had awed the crowd with her impeccable technique and virtuosity back then, and it was no doubt that her talent shined through the globe as she was performing 50 concerts a year.

Until the sex change. Then it dropped to 5 concerts a year, she couldn’t get a job applying as a lecturer at over 35 universities, and she succumbed to teaching children in a conservatory.

“A nice lady said, ‘Why teach here?’ I lied. I said, ‘I want to teach kids.’ I needed work.” [Sara] earned a third of what David had made 10 years earlier. — Anything He Can Do, She Can Do, New York Times

Anything He Can Do, She Can Do

Sara Davis Buechner

Yes, it’s true. Whatever David Buechner can do, Sara Davis Buechner can do too. Her technique and skills did not miraculously drop as she undergone the sex change, so does her warmth and charm and stagecraft. They are all the same.

What had changed is the opinions of people towards her sexuality. What had changed is the double standards of people towards a man and a transgender. Well, I guess I don’t need to tell a long story about how the double standard works. You and I have all have all done it before, and I myself admit that I have been guilty of judging someone through their gender before as well.

Through The Help Of A Friend


Crossing The Concourse, a documentary of Sara Davis Buechner by New York Times

A friend of Sara, Carrie Feiner, started to manage her concerts and jobs in from August 2002. As Julliard classmates Carrie knew what Sara is capable of, and even as a mother of 4 kids she tried her best to help Sara get back on her feet. She encouraged Sara to apply for a job at University of British Columbia as a professor. After several interviews and master classes given, Sara had proven herself as being a capable educator and she got the job since, until now.

Carrie has also started to book Sara concerts. And she did well being a manager. As Sara began to perform around the world, critiques see the talent in Sara again. The reviews began to turn positive. Instead of judging Sara through the gender, they have recognized her virtuosity and skills, something she have never lost but only needed recognition.

“Buechner has it all — intelligence, integrity, and all-encompassing technical prowess.” (Tim Page, The New York Times)

“This was clearly pianist Sara Davis Buechner’s shining moment. She leapt and swayed and bobbed through this concerto as if riding a bucking bronco….an entertaining romp tailor-made for the virtuoso. The standing ovation for Buechner was well-earned.” (Peter Bates, Boston Fine Arts Reviews)

“Buechner’s performance had a beauty that might have taken even Mozart’s breath away.” (Joseph Banno, The Washington Post)

“This performance had everything – style, technique, taste and originality…each work was carefully chosen and struck a fine balance between accessibility and sophistication…Buechner made every phrase an event, placed every voice as if setting crystal on crushed velvet, and calculated every tempo fluctuation with keen dramatic timing.” (Philip Kennicott, New York Newsday)

As we end the story…

I can’t help but to ask the question again, do you judge someone by the talent, or the race or gender?

The story of Sara Davis Buechner had reminded me once again, not to judge by the latter, because real talent should not be bound by racial or gender stereotypes.

Stereotypes will only bind our mind, not talent.

Here’s more music from Sara Davis Buechner. And oh, they touch my heart oh so deeply.


My personal favorite! Must listen okay??


A showcase of her crazy skills. Now this is virtuosity!

Update: Singaporean readers look here! Sara Davis Buechner will be performing a recital at 10 Feb 2010 (Thurs) at Yong Siu Toh Conservatory of Music! I’m not sure if I am be able to catch her flying from KL down south to SG, but if you’re in SG, don’t miss it! This information is given by Sara herself, so you can be sure of its validity! 😉 Thank you Sara for visiting this blog!

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