A Reflection on Pride Month with Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke
Each June, Pride Month celebrates the history, accomplishments, and uniqueness of the LGTBQ+ community, while also recognizing their continued movement and calls for equality. Throughout history, the achievements of LGTBQ+ musicians—including greats like Tchaikovsky, Poulenc, and Leonard Bernstein; to contemporary composers like Mohammed Fairouz, Julie Giroux, Jenifer Higdon and more— have often offered a home to the LGTBQ+ community that few other disciplines have.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with our own Principal POPS Conductor, Steven Reineke, for a conversation on what Pride means to him, a reflection on the contributions of fellow LGTBQ+ musicians, his top Pride anthems, and more!
Houston Symphony: What does Pride mean to you?
Steven Reineke: For me, the Pride month celebration is a time to reflect on the past, cherish the present, and look to the future. Firstly, I remember and pay tribute to those who came before me and fought for equal rights in the LGBTQ+ movement in decades past. Perhaps most notably in the U.S. is the Christopher Street Liberation Day, more commonly known as the Stonewall riots, and the brave stand those individuals took against the authorities that wanted to silence them. Secondly, I take great pride in the man that I’ve become. It wasn’t easy growing up as a gay kid in rural Ohio. Getting past the social and religious stigma of being born gay was not always easy. I, like many other LGBTQ+ people, fought an intense sense of low self-esteem due to societal and religious judgement. It took a long time for me to hold my head up high, learn how to love myself, and realize my worth and that I too was born in God’s image. My being gay is as unchangeable as my eye color. It’s a genetic trait that is only a portion of the person that I am. Lastly, I want to be as good of a role model as I can to the younger generation of gay youth that might come to a concert, or play my compositions, or that I might meet along the way through life. I want them to know that they do not need to hide amongst the shadows. Live your life and love who you love. It does indeed get better.
HS: What’s your favorite Pride song or anthem?
SR: Come on now! This is such a tough question to answer!! There are so many great songs that fit into this category, like “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper, “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, and “Freedom” by George Michael, just to name a few. I’m pretty sure my personal favorite though is “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. The link I added for “Born This Way” is from the TV show Glee and is so wonderful because it shows how ALL of us are born unique and that we should all learn to accept and love each other for who we are.
HS: The arts have generally been a safe home for many LGTBQ+ people throughout history. What aspects about the discipline and the people involved do you credit for achieving the level of representation the arts provide?
SR: There have been many great gay artists and thinkers throughout history from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Leonard Bernstein, and Aaron Copland to name just a few. All these people and so many more shared their talents and genius with the world, giving them a spotlight to represent not only themselves but the larger gay community even though many of these individuals had to hide their sexuality for fear of persecution. It is much easier today to be an out, gay artist. I believe the arts in general are a safe haven for many LGBTQ+ people because it’s an endeavor filled with creativity and honest emotion. These are just a few of the traits that are shared amongst every gay person I know.
HS: LGBTQ+ musical artists are reaching newfound heights of mainstream popularity. Are there any artists you would love to collaborate with for a concert?
SR: I’m so happy to see so many mainstream artists feeling comfortable enough to be able to come out publicly because it only helps to shed the stigma and misguided ideas about what being a gay person means. Some of the artists that I’d love to collaborate with include Janelle Monáe, Lady Gaga, Duncan Laurence, Sam Smith, Jonsi and the Icelandic Rock band Sigur Rós, Adam Lambert, and Ricky Martin. The dream above all others would most certainly be Sir Elton John!
HS: What message would you like to share for the younger generation of LGTBQ+ musicians looking to excel in the arts.
SR: Be yourself! Don’t let others dictate who you are, what you do, or how you express your artistic self. To be successful in the arts, one needs to be able to tap into raw, honest emotion. Soak up all the experiences life has to offer because it will give you a deeper well to draw from when you express yourself creatively.
HS: On a lighter note, we know you’re also a big film buff. What are a few of your favorite LGTBQ+ movies that make your list?
SR: Again, there are so many to choose from but a few of my favorites are “The Boys in the Band”, “My Beautiful Laundrette”, “The Birdcage”, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, “Maurice”, “Moonlight”, “The Kids are All Right”, and “Call Me By Your Name”.
HS: How will you be celebrating this Pride?
SR: My husband, Eric, and I will have a few gatherings with dear friends and catch a few live performances in New York City. Mostly we will just enjoy each other’s company. The honest truth is that we celebrate pride each and every day of the year.
The Houston Symphony wishes you all a happy Pride Month and we look forward to welcoming Steven back to the Jones Hall stage this September when he opens the 2021–22 Season with Alan Menken’s Broadway, plus a star-studded Opening Night celebration with Renée Fleming.
-By Mark Bailes