The INTO Interview

Grammy-Nominated Flutist Brandon Patrick George Takes Center Stage at NYC’s Famed Lincoln Center

· Updated on October 4, 2023

Classical music is a centuries old art form that has found renewed popularity through its incorporation into pop culture. From orchestral arrangements in Bridgerton to Lizzo’s vivacious flute playing, classical music isn’t having a comeback, but rather there’s a new appreciation within this day and age. 

One individual adding more Black queer visibility to the art form is flutist Brandon Patrick George. The accomplished flute soloist and chamber musician incorporates everything from Baroque era pieces to today’s modern arrangements within his repertoire. He’s performed as a soloist with the Atlanta, Albany, and Baltimore symphonies and is the flutist for Imani Winds, a two-time Grammy-nominated wind quintet launched by acclaimed flutist Valerie Coleman

Photo credit: Lauren Desberg

In 2020, George’s debut album J.S Bach, Boulez, Aho & Prokofiev: Flute Sonatas & Solo Works dropped. The album represented a collection of work that he described as “a dialogue between the past and the future.” J.S Bach, Boulez, Aho & Prokofiev features work from German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, Finnish composer Kalevi Aho, Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, and Pierre Boulez, all of whom have existed and composed music within various time periods – amassing a body of work that spans 300 years. 

And if you need a taste of his talent, you can listen to him perform “Air” by Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu below.

On May 4, George will make his debut headlining Lincoln Center concert, titled Twofold, ahead of the release of his album of the same name. Prior to his concert, INTO chatted via email with George where we discussed his start in classical music, the queerest instrument in an ensemble, and his Grammy nomination alongside famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. 

How did you get your start in classical music?

I began playing at age 10 in my public school band program. When I brought home a band form for my mother to sign she did so gladly, since I hated sports and being outdoors. Until then, my only hobby was watching The Golden Girls with my grandmother on the weekends. I actually tried out for the band when I was 9, but I couldn’t make a sound!

What would you consider the queerest instrument in an ensemble? 

I would say the flute, and not just because I’m a gay flutist! The flute is often given quite lively and flamboyant melodies to play, often showing off and playing dramatic passages.

Photo credit: Lauren Desberg

From Chevalier’s Joseph Bologne to certified bop star Lizzo, classical music has influenced Black artists for years. Which classical artist has influenced you the most?

I love the attention the flute and classical music is getting through pop culture, especially [from] music and film. It is so hard to pick one artist who has influenced me the most, but I might have to say Leontyne Price. Her voice is gold. And while my voice isn’t, my flute is (it’s made of real 14k gold). She paved the way for so many Black artists through her powerful voice and elegant stage presence that captivated audiences internationally for over five decades.

What went through your head when you found out that you were nominated for a Grammy Award in the same category as Yo-Yo Ma, who you had been listening to since you were a teenager?

I was so shocked when I heard the news! Certainly one of the proudest moments of my life. Yo-Yo Ma inspired my love for Bach, and I remember being captivated by his playing as a young elementary school student just beginning my musical journey. To be nominated in the same category as a musical hero was the honor of a lifetime!

What’s one moment in your musical career that you will remember for the rest of your life?

In 2019, I was invited to give a recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in honor of a beautiful exhibition of Dutch painting. It was such a special experience to play in front of paintings by celebrated artists such as Rembrandt. The exhibition was curated by a brilliant curator who I had the honor of meeting that night when he gave introductory remarks before my performance. I asked him to dinner afterwards and we were married two years later. I will certainly remember that moment for the rest of my life.

What would you say to Black queer people interested in or currently performing classical music?

What an honor it is to be Black, to be queer, and to have the gift of music. I know that it often feels like we are outsiders, and that feeling is valid. We are literally performing in spaces that were not designed for us. However, we have always been in those spaces, entertaining audiences, and it is important for us to be seen and heard. Your voice, your artistry could change the life of someone who hears you. Remember, as an artist you have a special privilege of not only representing the composers and their music that you’ll perform, but you represent your family, your community, and are making a difference in the world by offering beauty to all who will listen. Whether or not you feel it in the moment, please know that you are changing the world.♦

Brandon Patrick George’s concert, Twofold, takes place on May 4 at New York City’s Lincoln Center.

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