(WM) The Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA) will be making music over Come Out With Pride (COWP) week this October in Orlando with their annual conference.
The LGBA’s mission is to unite LGBT musicians of all backgrounds and skill levels through music, with 38 member bands all across the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K.
This year’s conference will be co-hosted by all three Florida LGBA members: Central Florida Sounds of Freedom Band & Color Guard, Tampa Bay Pride Band and South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble, and held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando Downtown from Oct. 10-13, aligning with COWP’s parade—in which Central Florida Sounds of Freedom Band & Color Guard is one of the grand marshals, on Oct. 12.
“This is probably the experience that our members look forward to most during the year,” LGBA President Cliff Norris says. “Since we are a group that serves the LGBTQ community, there’s also that kind of connection between all the members. It’s really amazing how the community forms each time.”
The LGBA traces its roots back to Jon Sims, who founded the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band—the first-ever LGBTQ band—in 1978.
The band, along with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, made headlines in both the LGBTQ and straight communities when it launched, most notably with a performance at a candlelight vigil held for assassinated San Francisco Board of Supervisor member Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone that same year.
Soon after, LGBTQ bands began popping up across the country. The LGBA was formed in 1982 as a way to unite all the bands.
Reflecting that history is this year’s conference theme, “Looking Back, Marching Forward.” With this year being the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and Orlando being the site of the Pulse nightclub tragedy, Central Florida Sounds of Freedom President Joe Kennedy felt it was the perfect time for this theme.
“I think the ‘looking back’ is certainly looking back to all of the people who paved the way to where we are today,” Kennedy says. “It’s really a celebration of all of the events from 1969 until now.”
Tampa Bay Pride Band President Daniel Stevens agrees, adding that “marching forward” is the acknowledgement that there is still a lot of work to be done for LGBTQ equality.
“Marriage equality is the law of the land, but for how long? We have people who are discriminated against and victims of crime at alarming rates,” Stevens says. “You have to be able to acknowledge how far you’ve come and where you’ve been, but also acknowledge that there are definitely things that need to be improved. And for us, that means making sure that our message is visible in very public forums like conferences like this.”
The conference will end with a concert at The Plaza Live on Oct. 13. Out composers Julie Giroux and Randall Standridge have commissioned two pieces for the concert.
“They’re both openly gay composers who are very active in the band literature, so it was important we not only highlight people who are active right now and that created music that potentially was going to be played at high schools and colleges around the country, but to specifically have composers who were out themselves,” Stevens says.
By being visibly out and proud and through music, the LGBA aims to “make a powerful political statement in a non-political way” with their conference and performances.
“It seems like it just takes the stroke of a pen to remove a freedom that we thought that we had won,” Norris says. “This year gives us that chance to reflect on heroes, on people we lost too early, on events that have united and caused elation in the community. And then there are many new things that the people who were organizing the Stonewall march had no idea would even happen. They didn’t know that this would keep continuing year after year and that it would spread to cities around the world.”
The LGBA’s “Looking Back. Marching Forward.” concert will be on Oct. 13 starting at 4 p.m. at The Plaza Live in Orlando. Tickets are $20 and available at the door or online at LGBA2019.com.