Friday, May 13, 2011

Tona's OUTMUSIC Awards Interview

I recently posted the press release concerning the upcoming OUTMUSIC awards happening in New York on the 23rd.  I was delighted to find out that the multitalented Tona Brown and her ensemble will be performing during that event and she graciously consented to do an interview with the TransGriot about it.

TransGriot: How excited are you to not only be performing but representing the trans community at this event?

I am elated and deeply honored to be representing the trans community at the 7th Annual Outmusic Awards on May 23rd at Irving Plaza in NYC. To perform in any capacity as an "out" artist is immensely gratifying because one can be their authentic self. I would like to show young African American trans people that you can succeed and achieve all of your dreams with hard work and perseverance.

As things stand today in the music industry there is still a fear of coming "out" and for good reason. Many artists face losing major endorsements, recording contracts and deals, a decreased volume of concert appearances and record sales, having their names put in tabloids, newspapers, and TV as a joke or scandal and/ or living with the fear of being physically and emotionally harmed.

Although I realized that it would take me longer to get to where I wanted to go as an "out" musician I knew it was the only option for me. I must be true to myself first so that my audience can appreciate who I am.

Lastly, by hiding in the "closet" there is a subliminal message of being ashamed of who you are that one sends to society. I am far from ashamed to represent the transgendered community and to show the world that we are a talented, educated, beautiful and relevant population that deserves the same rights and opportunities as any other group of people.

TransGriot: Transpeople have been making the point that we can excel in any musical genre. Do you think being classical trained is making the same type of societal statement? 

I can not agree more that trans people are ideal for the fine and performing arts in fact if you look at any music video, attend any concert or go to any fashion show often times you will see just how much the trans community has influenced the arts.

What I find appalling is how we as trans people are used by the music industry to help mainstream artists become more successful but we are never given the credit for doing so. Trans people are "allowed" to be the make-up artists, choreographers, hairstylists, background singers and songwriters, stylists, stage personnel, vocal coaches and teach the celebrities how to have personality and pizazz on the main stage. However we are not allowed the opportunity to pursue our dreams to be in the front of the stage or to pursue a solo career.

As a transgendered artist you are just supposed to understand that society is "not ready for a transgendered super star yet" or understand that the industry is too homophobic so therefore your job is to help someone else become a super star.

Transgendered artists are no longer doing that. We have helped long enough it is time for us to showcase our talents for the world to see and for the world make their own decisions regarding who they will support.

TransGriot: What has it been like working for the Outmusic Team?

Working for the Outmusic team has definitely been an "eye opener" for me because I have learned just how much the LGBT community does not support its own artists. The LGBT community will pay for artists outside of the community to come to LGBT prides and events before they will pay for someone that is already in the community and "out". This is a huge problem because if we as LGBT people cannot come back and receive support from our own community for our recording projects, tours and performances then we stand no chance in having a future.

I remember "coming out" nationally in 2005 or 2006 and thinking that there would be a lot of calls from LGBT affiliated programs that would support my efforts to succeed and found very little support. In fact, I got more support from the heterosexual community then I did from the LGBT community.

Now in 2011 I am working with LARA (LGBT Academy of Recording Arts) foundation the organization that founded the Outmusic Awards in an effort to bring attention to LGBT artists that are working hard to provide the best in music for our community. Its time to see LGBT super stars that did not have to "hide" first then come "out" or be found out through scandal to succeed.

We must first look within the LGBT community and ask ourselves why do we support homophobic artists and record labels? Why don't we demand our large pride organizations to seek talented LGBT artists for our parades and functions! News Flash America We ARE OUT THERE!

I also realized that there just simply was not enough information on record to find these artists and that is why the Outmusic Awards are so important. I feel that with the right support these awards will be the beginning of change. We will finally have something similar to the "Emmy's" or "Grammy's" but for LGBT artists. Our community can see what LGBT artists are doing around the world and support those artists and applaud them for being strong and fighting for Equality in the Music Industry.

I am also working hard on my own recording project this summer to share with the world and writing a memoir about my life experiences thus far. Of course TransGriot will be updated on the release of each project!

TransGriot:.What do you think will be the long term and short benefits of working closely with LARA/ Outmusic?

The long term benefits of working closely with LARA and Outmusic is having an equal platform to be seen and to perform. Our Executive Director Dierdre Meredith understands that trans people are not getting the opportunities that we deserve. Which is why she asked me to perform the first classical music performance to be included on the show in the history of the Outmusic Awards.

I jokingly call her the "mother" of LGBT Equality in the Music Industry because she is very passionate about equality for all! Ms. Meredith and members of the Board of Directors and Advisors are fighting to make sure that transgendered individuals get the same opportunities as everyone else. I have listened to her question various publications and labels as to why they do not have any transgendered representation on their boards, in magazines, on the radio etc. I am very proud to be on the National Advisory Board for this organization and feel that LARA is an ally for the transgendered community.

TransGriot:. Any hints on what we can expect to see from you performance wise for those that cannot attend the Awards?

I am very pleased to announce that I will be performing solo accompanied by "The Aida String" ensemble in a performance of the Presto movement from the "Summer" concerto of Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons". This movement is a work of virtuosic intensity and fireworks depicting a musical thunder storm. Vivaldi was very meticulous in his description of each movement to help the performers understand what feelings to project and to help tell a story with his music. Many of you have heard some of the fast scales in commercials and as sound bites on television and in cartoons!

Ironically this piece is one of the first pieces I ever listened to as a young person growing up and falling in love with the violin. What an honor it is to perform this work for the community! I'm very excited to perform this work with such a talented group of musicians!

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