Known to many as a dynamic and witty contestant on the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2016, Thorgy Thor is also a classically-trained musician who will bring her talents to Alberta this week. We recently asked her about her life in music, and what Pride means to her.
How did you get your start in music, and who were the musicians and teachers who influenced you?
Oddly enough, I was a competitive swimmer when I was young! But I was allergic to chlorine, so my parents threw me into music, and I latched on immediately. Playing in school, but also private lessons, New York Youth Symphony soon became freelance symphony orchestra gigs and teaching full time. I had some of the best teachers in high schoo, people who fueled my interest in continuing to play for the rest of my life. In college, however, while studying at Conservatory at Hartt School of Music and Purchase Conservatory, I split my time between rigorous chamber music rehearsal and dressing up in drag all night. I didn’t sleep for years! But it was only a matter of time before I fused my two very different interests.
You have a Bachelor of Music in both viola and violin performance. Do you have a preference between those two instruments?
My teachers were very smart to put me on viola when I had a massive growth spurt when I was young. Now I’m almost 7 feet tall (in a wig and pumps of course!) I LOVE playing violin in orchestral works by Brahms and Tchaikovsky. However, I prefer viola in string quartets. There is nothing like sitting back and listening to the other voices, knowing your viola part is holding everything together, whether the other players agree or not. Ha!
How did being on RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2016 change your life?
I spoke briefly about being a violinist on Season 8. However, I didn’t get to actually play live on television until RuPaul herself insisted that I play something at the reunion episode, and then I mentioned “I love to travel and play with symphony orchestras!” I received hundreds of emails from people all over the globe saying things like, “Hey, my name is Martha. I live in Iceland, and I’d love to be part of your Thorchestra,” but chartering a plane city to city is ridiculously expensive. So it makes more sense to travel alone with a small team, doing concerts with established orchestras. I love that everyone loves what I do. It has really changed my life.
We’re in the middle of Pride Month. What does Pride mean to you?
I’m proud of many things. I’m proud of my family for tolerating such an energetic, chaotic, artistic kid growing up. I’m proud of myself for putting in the work as an artist, to stick to my instincts and my heart, despite tons of criticism and obstacles along the way. I’m proud to be part of the LGBTQAI+ community. And during Pride season this year, I think it’s important to stick together and stand up for what you believe in. What I do in the Thorchestra show is for the whole family, so bring the little ones. It should not be illegal to play violin in a beautiful dress, regardless of what gender I was born into! Ludicrous!
We have a huge music library here at CKUA. Would you choose a song for our listeners?
Well, now that I mentioned it before, I can’t stop hearing it in my head as I’m answering questions: Brahms Symphony No. 1.
Thorgy and the Thorchestra II: The Regal Sequel takes place at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre June 14. See program details and get tickets.