Some orchestras mark Pride with a rainbow logo.

The Minnesota Orchestra is celebrating Pride with concerts conducted by its new music director Thomas Søndergård that are doubling as its season finale. There will be an LGBTQ history lecture and a preconcert drag performance. And yes, rainbows, too.

"Honestly, I was a little shocked," said Jude Park, a gay and nonbinary violist who has been with the orchestra since 2022. "I mean, Pride concerts, they happen. But it was the fact that it was coupled as our season finale, that Thomas was coming back to conduct it and that it was a legitimate subscription concert.

"That shows just how serious the orchestra is taking Pride."

The plan began with Søndergård, who was named music director in 2022, just a few weeks after the Danish conductor married his longtime love Andreas Landin, a Swedish singer. (He noted that "kæreste," the Danish term for beloved, has no gender.) Designing his first full season with the Minnesota Orchestra, Søndergård learned about the local Pride celebration and said, "I think we should be a part of that."

The June 20-22 program, featuring all LGBTQ composers, is one he conducted in 2021 at World Pride in Copenhagen.

"Pride, for me, is not only to do with who we love but really who we are and who we want to be in life and who we want to be seen as," Søndergård said during a conversation in his office in May.

During the pandemic, Søndergård and Landin read composers' biographies aloud to one another most mornings over coffee. But he believes that in many ways, music stands on its own, separate from biography. When at an art museum, Søndergård avoids the wall labels, he said, allowing a painting or a sculpture to speak to him directly.

But in explaining the power of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, whose Symphony No. 4 the orchestra will be performing, Søndergård turned to the struggle Tchaikovsky must have felt, being gay and religious in 19th-century Russia.

"If there's any composer where I can hear the longing — the longing for, 'Can I please just be allowed to be who I am?'" he said. "And he showed who he was through the music. It's so longing-full. And I'm just wondering if his music would have been completely different if it was no problem, or if he didn't care about what people thought.

"So somewhere, if you understand me right, he suffered, but for us, it's maybe a gift."

In addition to Tchaikovsky, the concerts will feature works by French composer Francis Poulenc and British composer Dame Ethel Smyth, who was also a conductor, author and member of the women's suffrage movement. (The orchestra had planned to play a piano concerto by Poland's Karol Szymanowski, but soloist Francesco Piemontesi was knocked off his bicycle by a car in Berlin, breaking his collar bone.)

Homophobia structured the way many composers lived their lives and made their music, said Nadine Hubbs, author of "The Queer Composition of America's Sound," a collective biography of how a group of gay composers, including Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, "became architects of American national identity during the most homophobic period in U.S. history."

She'll lecture on that topic before Thursday's concert.

"This is not a new idea. These are composers who flourished 80 years ago," said Hubbs, a professor of music and women's and gender studies at the University of Michigan. "But the idea that we can talk about who they really were and what their lives were like — that is pretty new."

Though she published the book in 2004, orchestras have recently been reaching out, inviting her to speak. "Not to say it's all gone mainstream and it's uncontroversial," Hubbs said. "It's great that arts administrators are doing this now, in this moment when LGBTQ issues and identities are becoming re-controversialized in very dangerous ways."

During violist Sam Bergman's first week with the Minnesota Orchestra in 2000, a cellist made a point to let him know that if he had a partner, the organization offers equal benefits to domestic partners.

That was the result of years of pushing by violinist Deborah Serafini, who in the mid-1990s was the only out gay member of the orchestra. "Most of the people in the orchestra think I'm a pain in the ass," she told a Star Tribune reporter in 1997. "But I'm not asking for a privilege. I'm simply asking to be treated like everyone else."

Thanks to her insistence, "we were one of the first orchestras to offer domestic benefits," Bergman said. "At that time, that was huge. Marriage wasn't a thing yet. It was huge to be able to put a domestic partner on your health care."

That's just one of the ways that the Minnesota Orchestra has led on LGBTQ issues, said Bergman, who presented an "Inside the Classics" program of LGBTQ composers during Pride five years ago. Having a gay music director whose husband is beside him for events "makes a huge difference," he said.

"To see the community, and to see our board and our staff and our musicians all embracing their family, that's big," he said. "It feels like it shouldn't be at this point, but it is. For him to want to do a Pride program in his first season with us, I hope that's a statement of confidence in us. And I think it's definitely a statement of confidence that we hired Thomas because we like Thomas.

"That means his spouse is every bit as much a part of our family as any straight music director's spouse would be."

Park, who uses they/them pronouns, grew up in "a very strict household with a lot of homophobia." It wasn't until going to college, and seeing successful musicians such as Rebecca Albers, now principal violist of the Minnesota Orchestra, and her wife, Maiya Papach, principal violist of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, that they felt they could "come out and be OK and have a shot at this career."

While in graduate school, performing with another orchestra, a manager pulled Park aside and asked them to wear pants wide enough to resemble a skirt, they said.

"Classical music is great and all," Park said, "but a lot of it is still steeped in backwards thinking."

Park is grateful, then, that they landed at the Minnesota Orchestra. "I didn't think I could be this happy and accepted," they said, "and it wasn't fully realized until I got here."

Minnesota Orchestra

What: Celebrating Pride with Thomas Søndergård.

When: 11 a.m. June 20, 8 p.m. June 21, 7 p.m. June 22

Where: Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

Tickets: $25-$69, with special prices available, 612-371-5656 or