Playing With Pride: A Conversion with Queer Flutists

To be oneself authentically can bring about genuine connections, relationships, and ideas that can ultimately lead to monumental change. There is a renaissance happening within the arts field where individuality is once again taking the forefront over conformity. Authenticity is a value shared by many young artists within the queer community, including flutists Jimmy Walter (he/him) and Kyrese Washington (they/them).

A recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Kyrese Washington is a freelance flutist who enjoys creating meaningful connections with music lovers through performing, storytelling, and fostering inclusivity. As a performing composer, they enjoy making music in a variety of ways. In 2022, they performed Carl Nielsen’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra with the UNC Greensboro Symphony Orchestra and the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra. Throughout their time in North Carolina, they primarily performed as the principal flutist of Appalachia: A Southeastern Wind Symphony and the Greensboro College Wind Ensemble. Also in 2022, they premiered 2 pieces: meditation i for solo flute and electronics and bees? for flute duo. Washington recently moved to New York City to study Classical Flute Performance with Valerie Coleman at the Manhattan School of Music. Prior to beginning their Master’s, they will attend the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival as a performing and composing fellow. They are looking forward to new collaborations and projects in the city as they continue to carve their unique path as a performing composer. Kyrese is immensely grateful to their mentors, who include Dr. Erika Boysen, Dr. Timothy Hagen, Sonora Slocum, Dr. Catherine Ramirez, and Dr. Kelly Nivison.

Jimmy Walter is an activist, administrator, educator, and flutist currently based in the Albuquerque Metro Area, soon to be the Greensboro-High Point Metro Area. In 2020, he earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Flute Performance from the University of Northern Colorado where he studied under Dr. James Hall, international soloist and masterclass artist, and Brook Ferguson, Principal Flute of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Jimmy also earned his Master of Music and Graduate Certificate in Flute Performance from the University of New Mexico where he studied under Valerie Potter, Principal Flute of the New Mexico Philharmonic. Jimmy’s work is currently centered around fighting for more Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with the arts, especially through the use of music education and performance.

I asked both Jimmy and Kyrese to speak to themselves and their work within the arts field and how they are loudly and proudly being themselves within the spaces they occupy.


How would you describe/identify yourself and your art?

Kyrese: I identify as an openly queer musician who is not afraid to be fierce when I need to be. I love serving looks and face strutting to whatever my destination is like I’m walking a runway fashion show. Also, I love a good wig, some heels, and some makeup. Anything to create a new fantasy that I can live in. Sometimes I like to think of myself as being delusionally quirky but also just straight fierce. Speaking of, I actually performed Carl Nielsen’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in 6-inch heels and I think that was my peak moment as a queer musician. I had someone tell me that they felt inspired seeing a queer person being fearless in the local community and not being afraid to express myself. My art is fully encompassing of my life experiences and how I connect with people. When I’m performing, I always have a story playing out in my head that is usually about something I went through or a person I know. I generally try to share the story of a piece with the audience I am performing to so that we can be on the same page. This is also mainly true when I am writing music.

Jimmy: I would describe myself as someone who goes against conformity and goes outside of the box, which hasn’t always been the case. I personally am someone who looks more into the new music realm and more diverse repertoire that tells a story and represents our society today rather than sticking to standard music.

What about the flute genuinely conveys the story you want to tell? 

Jimmy: I feel that the flute is an extension of my voice and allows me to convey my emotions with ease. It’s an instrument I’ve learned to love and have figured out the ways it assists with my storytelling through different tone production and such.

Kyrese: The flute sings in a way that lifts my spirits and almost always puts me in a good mood. The only exception might be hearing orchestral excerpts that I sometimes dread playing. I enjoy hearing how versatile the flute can be as a solo instrument and as part of an ensemble. I am a pretty big person (6’3”) and I have a pretty big sound. When creating my best sound, I enjoy feeling the flute vibrate beneath my fingers. Thinking of the flute as an extension of my voice is the best way for me to tap into my best sound.

Do you feel as if your community/communities are well represented within the flute community and the arts community at large?

Kyrese: I feel like every week I continue to discover more flutists who look like me, and it’s exciting to be able to watch the flute world evolve and become more diverse. I don’t see many flutists that look like me in my local community; however, I feel like social media makes up for it. I do make a genuine effort to connect with flutists that represent marginalized groups because I know we must support one another in order to continue the progress of diversity in our community.

Jimmy: I feel that the 2sLGBTQIA+ community is represented more within the flute community now, especially with the number of 2sLGBTQIA+ flutists. Now, I will not deny that there are many “traditional” flutists that are still not accepting of it and will say things like “Why can’t music just be music, it shouldn’t be about these social issues” or “Why does your sexuality or gender need to be present in music”?. The arts community at large I feel is becoming more inclusive, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. There’s only so much a DEI statement can do with these larger organizations. Let’s not get started about the lack of repertoire still, or if there is a piece of repertoire that is by a 2sLGBTQIA+ composer it’s taboo to talk about them being a part of the community.

The Filipino community is somewhat represented within the flute community but there are some flutists who don’t wish to express their Filipino heritage within their music. I think one flutist who is doing a lot to represent Filipinos within the flute community is Norman Menzales, who is someone I absolutely look up to as they’re doing so much to represent not only Filipino flutists but 2sLGBTQIA+ flutists as well. At large, I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen or heard a concert with a Filipino composer on it, and I would love for that to change and be a part of that in some way.

How do you show your individuality and uniqueness through your artistry, performance, and work? 

Jimmy: First (I took this from watching Dr. Tim Hagen perform) is dressing in a way that is comfortable to me but represents the music that I am performing. I don’t stick with wearing suits and button-downs as I feel they are restricting but also enforce this idea that music is for the wealthier patrons or that you must fit a mold. So, I like to wear something that is very freeing and adds humanity to my performance, and makes my performance visual art as well. Second, I like to perform works outside of the “traditional” and “standard” boxes. That doesn’t mean that we should never perform Mozart and Bach and such, but rather that I perform works that are more representative of me and of social issues today. Third, through my work, I am working to change the idea that we must stick with these traditional composers throughout our entire musical life. Through my future research, I will tackle issues of traditionalism in beginning music spaces that reinforce these traditionalist structures.

Kyrese: I like to show my uniqueness by engaging with my audience in as many ways as possible. I love starting conversations or introducing new ideas with the audiences I perform for. It is important for me to try to get the audience to feel included in the performance. I also make sure to tell the audience about whatever story I have created for a performance so that they can follow what is happening in my head through their own interpretation. I hope to write a piece in the future that has notated audience participation.

 What do you see as your role within the spaces you occupy? 

Kyrese: Honestly, I feel like a walking live, laugh, love poster, and I try my best to be my most authentic self and encourage others to do the same. I use my courage to not be afraid of what others think and just live my life. I find it extremely important to support my friends in their endeavors in accepting themselves, especially in the music community.

Jimmy: I see myself as someone who is helping myself, students, friends, and other musicians get out of the “traditional” mold and realize that music is not meant to be strict. We can and should perform works that represent us as musicians, other communities, and social issues that are occurring today.

In what ways do you hope to see your community/communities better represented?

Jimmy: I wish to see more 2sLGBTQIA+ composers being represented and getting their flowers. I want to see more of their works performed. I want to see more musicians of the community being proud of who they are and show that through their artistry. I hope that more organizations will start taking action and supporting the 2sLGBTQIA+ community, all POC communities, and women as well. Turn your DEI statements into actions.

Kyrese: I am honored to be working with Valerie Coleman, who I believe has done an amazing job of advocating for underrepresented communities to become more visible. I plan to follow in her footsteps by focusing on different intersections of underrepresented communities that I closely relate to. I would love to see more competitions and programs that allow people who feel like they aren’t seen to participate and have their musical ideas more visible.

If you could give any advice to young artists who are struggling with being confidently authentic to themselves, what would it be?

Kyrese: First, I would say that it takes time to develop confidence and to be completely honest, I still have moments where imposter syndrome wins, and I feel hopeless. But over the years I have begun to feel confident for longer periods of time and have created strategies that I know will get me out of my low points. For example, I know going for a walk or connecting with nature is one way for me to regain my sense of self. I also enjoy improvising and writing music and sharing those ideas with friends who always remind me of the confident person they are familiar with.

Jimmy: Stop caring about what others think about you. This is something I’ve always struggled with not only as a musician but as a 2sLGBTQIA+ Filipino American. In the long run, what they think about you does not define who you are. The hard work that YOU recognize, is what matters. Also, wear something that represents you when you perform! Make yourself a visual artwork along with your performance. Enjoy music and the arts and realize that there is no “standard” that we must follow.


Perspectives like those of Kyrese’s and Jimmy’s deserve to be heard and shared. I am thrilled for the future of the arts field with musicians and leaders such as these two who are forging a path for the generations to come. These are the last words Jimmy and Kyrese want to share with the flute community.


Jimmy: To those out there who think ‘well I’m not a part of any of those communities, so how does this apply to me?’, please take time to think about who in your life is. I guarantee you that you have a family member, friend, student, or co-worker that falls under the underrepresented scope. It is your job to support them in any way that you can, whether that is performing works because you want to support them or be an ally for them.

Kyrese: I would like to say that community is everything; even more important than practicing, writing music, and teaching. Finding a group of people that make you feel seen and heard will allow you to dream big and work hard. Along with this is taking care of yourself, mentally and physically because one thing about me is that I am going to get my 8 hours, I’m going to eat good, and I’m going to have a good time with my friends and family. When I focus on that, practicing, writing music, and teaching easily falls into place. Like the Queen of Drag RuPual Charles says, “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love anybody else?” And that is on PERIOD.

Lorin Green is an active flutist, educator, and administrator in Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University (Bachelor’s in Flute Performance) and the University of New Mexico (Master’s in Flute Performance). Her past teachers include Christina Smith of the Atlanta Symphony and Valerie Potter of the New Mexico Philharmonic. Lorin is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Musical Arts in Flute Performance at the University of Washington with flutist and educator Donna Shin.

During her past year as the Seattle Arts Fellow for the Seattle Symphony, Lorin has led and been vital in reviving programs including the Prison Visits Program, Community Stages Fund, and Dear Humanity.

Outside of her performance, educational, and administrative endeavors, Lorin is a co-host of Relative Pitch Podcast where conversations center around accessibility, representation, and innovation within the music field. Her chamber ensemble, Elucidate Duo, is a flute and trumpet duo that strives to present riveting performances for an array of audiences by platforming and highlighting works by POC, women, and other underrepresented composers to aid in the diversification of the classical music canon.

As an avid researcher and performer, Lorin has been selected to present and perform at the Atlanta Flute Club Annual Conference, Georgia Music Educators Association In-Service Conference, the Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention, the Collegiate Band Directors National Association National Conference, the National Flute Association Annual Convention, the International Trumpet Guild Annual Conference, and the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic.

Lorin’s work and education centers on amplifying the voices of the underrepresented within all fields of music and art at large.