Queer Representation in Music Education
It might seem that there is a lot of talk about queer individuals in the arts scene; however, the talk is recent, and it’s not enough. Casey Claros, music journalist with Finessed Media and , shares an interesting explanation relevant to queer artistry:
“[Queer artists] gain a following before they ever sign a record deal… and the algorithm helps them out tremendously to connect with people. Based off of that, they can show that they’re profitable to a label, and a label cannot ignore these artists.”Vox Magazine, 2021
Queer artists who start their career in the open can build a following that will carry them through the spotlight whereas artists who come out as queer later in their career risk being misgendered, targeted with homophobia, and at risk of losing work. This isn’t to say that all queer artists should start their careers as authentically as possible – some are unable to, and others are still questioning. What is needed is a reminder to those who once loved a queer artist before they knew the artist was queer that there is still positivity and relevance in each individual.
So let’s talk about queer musicians! I found a few worth highlighting who had their roots in K12 music education: MXMToon, King Princess, and Lil Nas X.
MXMToon, also known as Maia XMT, started her music education at a very young age, following her brother with violin lessons. She continued to excel in her studies, learning to play the cello and trumpet. Her first big break came when she was about ten years old. She became a vocalist in her school’s rock band. Perhaps that success was what led her down the road to songwriting? Maia XMT wrote her first song just a few years later: 1-800-DATEME. Maia XMT has released 5 albums with the most recent, Rising, in May 2022, followed up by a tour in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe! You can find Maia XMT on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Spotify, and Tik Tok. You can buy her music at Amazon or Itunes.
King Princess‘ first introduction to music came through her father’s recording studio; however, her K12 music education came by way of Avenues School in NYC and University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles. The artist, also known as Mikaela Mullaney Straus, recorded a CD as her entrance interview, and she was immediately accepted. Avenues School is a pre-k through 12th grade private school with a focus on arts – both visual and performing arts. She has accomplished so much since she completed her studies as both a songwriter and musician. You can follow her on Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Be sure to check out her music at your favorite retailer!
Lil Nas X, also known as Montero Lamar Hill, began his music career as a trumpeter in elementary and junior high school. He excelled in the instrument but gave up practice in high school. He explains if someone were to give him a trumpet, he could probably still play it. His teenage years were a struggle for him as he battled his eventual sexual identity. Everything he did was an attempt to be cool and to hide who he didn’t want to be. But, now, he’s proudly queer, collaborating with Billy Ray Cyrus on “Old Town Road” and covering “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. Of course Lil Nas X also excels at writing and performing his own music. His first studio album, Montero, received critical acclaim. It was first presented as a coming new born as Lil Nas X did a photo shoot as a pregnant man. Over 1 million albums sold, and it was the most pre-added song on Itunes. It also debuted at number two on the Billboard Hot 200. This album was recognized for two singles which reached number one on the Hot 100 charts in 2021. He followed this album with an international tour in 2022. If you already know about Lil Nas X, you know where to find him. If not, you can follow him on Spotify, Youtube, Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram, and Twitter. I encourage you to buy his music at your favorite retailer. Album sales more than concert ticket sales are what support these artists!
More on a local queer artist to come in a future blog.