Metro Weekly

Helping transgender and nonbinary singers find the perfect notes

Aiden Feltkamp adds inclusion to the standard repertoire with the "Anthology of New Music: Trans & Nonbinary Voices."

Aiden Feltkamp -- Photo:  Aumna Iqbal
Aiden Feltkamp — Photo: Aumna Iqbal

A great idea whose time had come, NewMusicShelf’s Anthology of New Music: Trans & Nonbinary Voices, Vol. 1 addresses a need felt by many trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming singers and artists. “As a trans nonbinary singer, I often found opera and musical theater compositions to be aggressively gendered and binary,” says the anthology’s curator, Aiden Feltkamp. “I was at a loss for repertoire that spoke to me.”

Searching to see who was out there “writing for trans voices, nonbinary voices,” Feltkamp expected to find some musical theater or classical music anthology to suit him. “I couldn’t find anything,” he recalls.

“So when I was selected as a Turn the Spotlight fellow, back in January of 2020, as part of that fellowship, you choose a major project. And so I knew this was the project they wanted to do. I had the support of the fellowship, and the mentors there and their connections. It was just like a perfect storm of it being an idea that I’d had for a while, and then the right moment and opportunity to make it happen.”

Published this year by NewMusicShelf, the collection represents a considered balance of classical art songs and opera arias, original songs for musical theater, a few singer-songwriter pieces, and even sacred music.

“Since it was the first one, I wanted to run the gamut a little bit more than I would have if something had already existed,” explains Feltkamp. “Like if the musical theater one was out there, I think I would have done a lot more classical, but I wanted to mix it up.”

A singer, educator, and creator, Feltkamp curated the anthology with three groups in mind. “One is the singer. I really hope that they find music in there that really speaks to them, that they’re able to bring with them to auditions, sing on recitals and perform, or just find joy in singing at home.

“Two is for voice teachers who have trans and nonbinary students, so they can say, ‘Hey, this is a great starting spot.’ And then third is for programmers. So they can’t say, I don’t know who the trans writers are out there. I don’t know who the trans composers are out there.”

Music is being written for specific trans performers, Feltkamp notes, as well as “characters who are explicitly written as having the experience of being trans or nonbinary. And that’s new. That’s really exciting because opera can be extremely traditional and extremely gendered, [and] it’s this very traditional idea of what a woman is and what a man is. And so we have all these new stories, and these new characters with new experiences. The new music allows us to do that, because it’s being written now rather than 400 years ago.”

Anthology of New Music: Trans & Nonbinary Voices, Vol. 1 is available at NewMusicShelf, Amazon,, and wherever you buy books. Visit

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