Holding nuance in contradiction: what Pride means to me
Pride Month 2022
Volume 122, No. 6June, 2022
Self love is complicated.
Self love as a musician feels like an impossible contradiction. My job is to constantly critique, to listen closely, uncover and cut out every flaw, a cultivated practice of selection and rejection.
I was raised in a homogenous place. Everyone looked like me, everyone conformed, and most people took comfort in that. It was how they wanted it. They were invested in it as a community, had it codified into their institutions, swiftly, almost effortlessly trimming differences and silencing outliers. As a young queer kid in that environment, I learned to be hyper-vigilant at imitation and hyper-expressive in unspoken mediums, an expert at implication, at interpreting what is felt and understood but never spoken.
So there was something very natural for me, a violinist, about approaching a perfectionist artform. Culture, Constitution, Canon and Theology all explicitly agree: you are not and will never be good enough, but with practice, careful critique, refinement and trimming of excesses you too can spend your life trying.
As I began the complicated gymnastics of the Pursuit of Excellence, I also began to see that the ability to blend and morph is actually a staple of any good musician — to move effortlessly and authentically (what the queer community calls Realness) between grooves, click into a pocket without skipping a beat, to mingle among voices in a score as with partners on a dance floor, sometimes taking the lead, other times being swept up in another’s momentum, sturdy and reliable for your colleagues yet fluid as water — our profession, then, is not only to hold such diversity and nuance in contradiction but to cultivate it generously.
One of my favorite queer icons, Juliana Huxtable, articulated this directive boldly when she said, “The greatest way to point out the flaws of what’s going on around is to live in a way that exists directly in opposition to that but doesn’t sacrifice the idea that I function, that I live, that I am vital.” The tradition of PRIDE insists, I am different AND I function. How I function within a system may look different from how you function but that is the function: with integrity to our difference we are ALL vital.
My unfolding comes to me in layers. This time of year, Spring blossoming into Summer, June the month of Solstice and PRIDE, I am reminded vividly and joyfully that at any point I too am a thousand petals tightly wrapped up in one tiny bud. As I embrace my own diversity — a cultivated practice of acceptance — opening up more fully to the collection of traits and qualities that are mine and mine alone, I can more easily embrace and celebrate the diversity of others all around me. I move seamlessly from the work of cultivating and embracing diversity within myself to the work of embodying it in the workplace and codifying it generously into the structures and institutions I help to build.
Violinist JD Hunter (they/them) is a New York-based soloist, performance artist, studio musician, orchestrator and music producer serving cross-genre Classical High-Art Realness. JD was classically trained at the New England Conservatory of Music and was a Tanglewood Music Center Fellow. Some of JD’s recent credits include serving as concertmaster of the first national tour of “Aladdin,” performing in the orchestra at the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, and performing on the soundtrack of Oscar-nominated film “Judas And The Black Messiah.”