If you’re looking to diversify your repertoire, you may want to know about some LGBTQ+ composers. That way, you can find new music and support marginalized communities.
Whether they’re gay, bisexual, or transgender, there are many composers who are or were part of the queer community. Keep reading to learn more about these composers.
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1. Samuel Barber
Samuel Barber lived from 1910 to 1981 and wrote a variety of works. Probably his most famous piece is Adagio for Strings. But us flute players may know him better for his Canzone for Flute and Piano.
He received two Pulitzer Prize Awards during his life. Barber also wasn’t one to hide his homosexuality.
2. Eve Beglarian
If you’re interested in the works of living composers, you should know about Eve Beglarian. She’s an American composer with family from Armenia. Beglarian has won multiple awards for her compositions.
Her flute piece Hard4the$ is about the gender pay gap in the US. There are four parts, and you can choose any of them and use pre-recorded tracks for the others.
3. Leonard Bernstein
Bernstein was another one of the most well-known LGBTQ+ composers. He received international recognition as a conductor. But he also wrote West Side Story and Candide.
The composer married a woman, but he also had relationships with men.
4. Benjamin Britten
English composer Benjamin Britten was also LGBTQ+. He spent much of his life in a relationship with a man, a singer named Sir Peter Peans. Britten wrote multiple operas during his career.
But as an instrumentalist, I was first introduced to him through his work The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. The piece features each section of the orchestra to help kids learn about music.
5. John Cage
I don’t know about you, but when I think of John Cage, I think of his “work” 4′ 33″. The piece is four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. He was known for his thoughts on silence as part of music.
Cage had relationships with both men and women throughout his life.
6. Wendy Carlos
While most of the LGBTQ+ composers on this list are gay or bisexual, Wendy Carlos is a transgender woman. She came out as trans in the late 1970s, and she was one of the first public figures to do so.
Carlos has won multiple Grammy Awards for her work. She’s also the first transgender person to earn a Grammy.
7. Frederic Chopin
Chopin had relationships with women. However, some scholars believe he was also attracted to men. In various letters, the composer wrote about having to hide part of his personality.
Of course, he’s best known for his piano music. But flute players may know of the composer’s Variations on a Theme by Rossini.
8. Aaron Copland
Copland was a gay composer from New York. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and wrote pieces like Appalachian Spring. Despite being relatively private, he wrote letters about his life with other men.
As a flutist, the big Copland work I know of is his Duo for Flute and Piano. I’ve never played it, but I’ve heard good things about the music.
9. Arcangelo Corelli
One of the earliest LGBTQ+ composers has to be Corelli. He wrote a lot of concerti and sonatas for violin. The composer also played the violin and refused to play a work by Handel due to the high range.
He had relationships with multiple men throughout his life.
10. Julius Eastman
He was a minimalist composer from American. Eastman was openly gay, and he achieved some success. Unfortunately, he didn’t have as much success as some of his contemporaries.
Not only was his orientation a factor, but the fact that he was a black man could have affected his career.
11. Frederick the Great
Prussia’s King Frederick II wrote a variety of works, including sonatas for flute. A flutist, he studied with the great Johann Joachim Quantz.
The king had affairs with men and even wrote how he wasn’t attracted to women. Sadly, his father didn’t approve of Frederick’s relationships.
12. George Frideric Handel
Another early LGBTQ+ composer was Handel. He wrote operas, oratorios, and many instrumental works. His most famous work is probably his Messiah.
Music historians believe he was gay because of his social circles. Also, one expert claims there’s a gay subtext in Handel’s cantatas.
13. Jennifer Higdon
When it comes to living LGBTQ+ composers, you should also know about Jennifer Higdon. She’s won the Pulitzer Prize for her Violin Concerto. Higdon has also written vocal music.
As a flute player, I know of her works such as Rapid Fire. Along with original compositions, Higdon has also arranged works like Amazing Grace for flute choir.
14. Jean-Baptiste Lully
French Baroque composer Lully wrote multiple operas. The composer wrote flute works as well. Despite being born in Italy, he lived much of his life in France and became a French subject.
He married a woman and had a mistress. However, some music historians believe both were “beards” to cover his homosexuality.
15. Gian Carlo Menotti
Another one of the most prominent LGBTQ+ composers you should know was Gian Carlo Menotti. He was partners with fellow composer Samuel Barber. Menotti won Pulitzer Prizes for his operas.
The Italian-American composer wasn’t as famous as his partner. But he still wrote amazing music.
16. Francis Poulenc
Flute players should know of Poulenc no matter what due to his flute sonata. The composer was openly gay, and he was religious but didn’t let either thing affect the other.
Some historians believe Poulenc’s use of different styles acted as a metaphor for his inner moral conflict. Along with his flute sonata, other famous works of Poulenc’s include his oboe sonata, which also works on the flute or piccolo.
17. Camille Saint-Saëns
French composer Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy and not only wrote music but was also a conductor. At the time, homosexuality wasn’t accepted, so he kept much of his life private.
He married a woman, but it was likely that the move was to cover the fact that he was gay. Of course, his most famous works include Carnival of the Animals and Danse Macabre.
18. Gary Schocker
American flutist and composer Gary Schocker has written a variety of works for flute solo and small flute ensembles. He’s written multiple flute sonatas as well as other solo works.
Some of Schocker’s works take inspiration from Chinese music. Others are inspired by foods and beverages, such as ice cream or coffee.
19. Franz Schubert
Schubert had a short life, but he wrote hundreds of songs. He also wrote multiple symphonies. His most famous work is probably Erlkonig, and he also wrote Variations on Trockne Blumen, a flute piece.
Some music historians believe his sexuality as such due to the lyrics in some of his Lieder. However, it’s unclear for sure what Schubert’s sexual orientation was.
20. Dame Ethel Smyth
English composer Smyth was a part of women’s suffrage in the early 20th century. Along with that, she was open about her relationships with women.
She wrote operas and masses during her career as a composer. Her works also included solos for piano, a cello sonata, and some string quartets.
21. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Some of the other composers on this list may surprise you, but it’s more well-known that Tchaikovsky was gay. He married a woman to try and stop rumors of him being gay, but it didn’t work out.
The composer later received money from Nadezhda von Meck. They weren’t in a relationship, but her money helped pay for him to work as a composer. Of course, he wrote multiple ballets and symphonies.
In a world where LGBTQ+ rights are under attack, I believe it’s even more important than ever to support LGBTQ+ composers. While many of these composers are no longer living, some are.
If you want to work with an asexual composer, I’m open to composing and arranging commissions. Learn more about working with me and set up a commission today.