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At a time when LGBT students are being silenced at school, one group of young musicians are playing with pride.

The Youth Pride Band is back and bringing high school band members together from across the area.

After being on hiatus for COVID, they return to a different world entirely. The 11th Youth Pride Band comes together in the world of “Don’t Say Gay.” Organizers were concerned the restrictions would prevent school music programs from promoting auditions. However, 50 students from 22 schools tried out and were accepted.

“Our greatest recruitment tool is a word of mouth and many past members of the Youth Pride Band have graduated high school,” Dan Bassett said.

Bassett is the Artistic Director of the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble, the group that oversees the Pride Youth Band.

“The type of student who signs up for the band varies. Some identify as LGBTQ+ and want to be in an atmosphere that supports them. Others are the very dedicated band students who want to perform more challenging music than their high school band can play. Still others may not be the best players and want to improve their playing and seek out opportunities that allow them to do so.”

Because the students come from different schools and music programs, they don’t have a lot of time to practice together. They will rehearse Sundays in February before their show on the 26th at the Amaturo Theater of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Bassett said finding chemistry that quickly isn’t a problem.

“There's an instant bond with other students in your section. It is not possible to play your instrument next to someone and not connect with them through the music.”

Those bonds extend beyond the rehearsal space.

“That naturally leads to being more social once there is a break. Many students will socialize before and after rehearsals as well as during our sectional rehearsals. The bond between the coaches for each section also comes about quite naturally.”

This year’s program will feature music primarily by Julie Giroux, who will also conduct. One piece by another artist has been on hold for years. Robert Sheldon’s River of Grass was commissioned by Pride Wind Ensemble before the pandemic. It depicts the wildlife and beauty of the Everglades. The first half of the program will be presented by the students and their coaches who are members of the Pride Wind Ensemble and the second half will be the combined Youth Pride Band and Pride Wind Ensemble with over 100 musicians on stage.

Fifteen thousand dollars in scholarships will also be awarded, including a $5,000 scholarship from Floatarama. Bassett said it’s all part of their commitment to the importance of music and music education.

“Music is important because it transforms people to another state of being. It can affect your mood and disposition. For students playing in an ensemble of any kind, they gain confidence and grit through the rehearsal process and are able to connect to their fellow musicians on a whole different level. Playing in band is very much a team effort where each individual player needs to perform at their peak, without errors, for an hour-long performance. That's something incredible and very special.”