Alumni Profile: Sara Davis Buechner '76, Classical Pianist, Recording Artist, Professor, LGBTQIA+ Activist

Alumni Profile: Sara Davis Buechner '76, Classical Pianist, Recording Artist, Professor, LGBTQIA+ Activist

We sat down with Sara Davis Buechner '76 over the summer to talk about her career (Classical Pianist, Recording Artist, Professor of Piano at Temple University, and LGBTQIA+ Activist) and the impact of her experience at Friends for the most recent edition of Friends Magazine

How she got here: I had musical gifts as a child. After Friends, I attended the Juilliard School and followed the basic protocol to be a professional classical musician: entered international piano competitions, won some prizes, got concert management, played a very successful New York debut, and made some recordings. Since my thirties, I've also taught piano. A career in classical music is a mix of talent, hard work, ability, charisma, and chutzpah. Friends didn’t really have many musical offerings then, but that’s totally changed. I studied privately since I was five, but in eighth grade, I did play Schroeder in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Current work: In addition to teaching, I have a very active concert career, playing concerts with orchestras and solo recitals. In December, I am doing an Asian tour. I've also just finished my memoir.

Impact of your Friends School education: I came to Friends in the eighth grade. My older brother, Matthew Buechner ’75, and I had gone to public school. As a young and sensitive child playing classical piano, I was bullied in public school. Friends music teacher, Thomas Brumit, presented me with my own key to the Steinway, which is the same piano that is still in the Friends School auditorium. I was allowed to practice whenever I wanted to during the school day, which was wonderful. I found that I had classmates who were also taking piano lessons. Learning that I was not the oddball and having people who understood what I was doing was a very big deal for me in high school.

Notable Friends School experience: Once or twice a year I would play piano in Collection for about 15 minutes. During senior year, just before my Juilliard audition, I played Collection. When I stood up to bow, the whole room stood up. It was a very magical, bittersweet moment because I knew it would be my last time doing that. I still treasure that standing ovation. Last spring, I played three recitals in Friends’ three divisions and talked to the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) about my journey as a prominent transgender person and activist. So much has changed at Friends in terms of awareness of the breadth of students that they have there. The word “trans” didn't even exist. I was so happy to see that supportive environment at the School and kids who are clearly out and open. I'm not surprised since Friends has always been a progressive, inclusive school, but to see that made me very proud to have come from Friends.

Memorable Friends School teacher: The French teacher, John Huffman, was such a wonderful man. After school, I would often practice in the auditorium or sit in Mr. Huffman's room listening to him play French classical music while he graded papers. Will Samuel, my geometry teacher, was a real pillar of the school. He had a very folksy, grandfatherly manner. You could talk to him about anything. It was the age of Watergate and Nixon, and he was very leftist in his politics. I remember so many discussions about all kinds of things.