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    The Beat Goes On: San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band’s 40th Anniversary

    By Heidi Beeler–

    On Sunday, June 24, the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band will march up Market Street, marking the group’s 40th anniversary making music for San Francisco and the LGBT community it grew from.

    This year, along with its usual dance card of Pride parades and marches, the Band will celebrate with a birthday bash featuring a gala evening with dinner and dancing at the elegant War Memorial Green Room, 6–10 pm on Wednesday, June 20. The entertainment that night will itself be a celebration of the Band’s eclectic performance history.

    City Swing, the 18-piece big band that spun off from the Band in 1985, will play swing music as a gourmet dinner is served. Sharon McNight, who appeared with the Band at “No on 6” fundraisers in 1978, and Leanne Borghesi and Donna Sachet, who have emceed the Band’s Spotlight on Broadway, will lend their voices. Super Super, a combo led by saxophonist Chris Mills, will play jazz. Four of the Band’s conductors, whose time on the podium spans more than 20 years, will be featured in a French horn quartet to honor founder Jon Sims, who was also a horn player.

    It’s hard to fathom today what the Band’s appearance in the parade meant to our community in 1978. That year, Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly Gay elected official in the country, waved from an open convertible, the literal face of the Gay community’s growing political strength.

    The same year that Milk was elected in San Francisco, Anita Bryant’s anti-gay Save Our Children coalition successfully overturned an anti-gay discrimination ordinance in Florida, and referendums to throw out sexual-orientation protections spread across the country—from Saint Paul to Wichita to Seattle and Eugene, Oregon. Riding the anti-gay backlash, California legislator John Briggs spearheaded Proposition 6, a state-wide referendum on that November’s ballot that would ban homosexuals and their supporters from teaching in California public schools. So, in 1978, thousands of parade marchers carried signs protesting Briggs, declaring “No on 6” and “We Are Your Children.”

    Within this political climate, Sims—a junior high music teacher and French horn player from Kansas—arrived in San Francisco. Out to his family and immersed in the “airy-fairy” excitement of 1970s Castro, Sims tacked notices to phone poles and cajoled friends to dig up instruments so they could give their parade a band. They gathered to rehearse on the dance floor of the Trocadero Transfer one April afternoon where he invited them to make “the sound of pride.”

    The morning of June 25, 1978, Sims blew a whistle, threw his drum major’s mace in the air and literally kicked off the Band with a leap. Seventy musicians in red visors, white tees and blue jeans followed him onto Market Street playing “California, Here I Come!” A roar rose up from the crowd as they passed. The crowd knew a radical act when they saw one. Sims and the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band & Twirling Corps stepped out of the closet and into a tableau of Americana to march down “Main Street” for their city’s parade.

    The excitement kicked up by that first parade at the same time the community was fighting for its rights as Americans gave the Band instant celebrity status. They opened for Sylvester at “No on 6” fundraisers, appeared at Bette Midler’s book signing, surprised Francis Ford Coppola at his 40th birthday party and headlined with Robin Williams for Bread & Roses at the Greek. Harvey Milk and Jose Sarria handed the Band a check for formal uniforms so that the Band could represent our community at the Tournament of Roses Parade.

    Through it all, Sims had a clear vision that music connected people. “Music is our message,” he later told a TV reporter in 1979 who tried to draw him into an angry comment the week Dan White was acquitted of Harvey Milk and George Moscone’s assassinations.

    “I want to create a performance arts organization,” Sims wrote in a letter to his friend Nancy Corporon, “ … which has high quality performance standards, and which creates love, sharing and communication, and which someday can be given by the gay society to all of society as a beautiful gift once ‘being gay’ is an obsolete issue.”

    Forty years later, the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band is still marching toward a future where being LGBT in America is obsolete. Over those four decades, 11 more directors have picked up the baton to take the Band further along that journey. Four—Nancy Corporon, Jadine Louie, Pete Nowlen and Artistic Director of Marching & Pep Mike Wong—will play a French horn quartet at the Gala in memory of Sims, who also played horn. Here are some observations from the view of the podium:

    Jay Kast (Conductor 1985–1987)

    The Freedom Band’s earliest conductor alive today is Jay Kast. A flute player and music teacher, Kast moved to the Castro too late for the 1978 Pride Parade, but he joined soon after. He played for its first formal concert that December, where Sims introduced the SF Gay Men’s Chorus, the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of SF, a Lesbian Chorus, a gay Dixieland band and German oompah band, to name a few. “The band grew in ability and size under Jon’s leadership,” Kast said.

    Sims wanted theater and dance to be part of the mix too, so he started the SF Tap Troupe, a team of tappers directed by Rosie the Riveter that tapped along with the Band in parades. The Twirling Corps was already a staple of the Band, but he added the F.L.A.G. (For Lesbians and Gays) Corps. By the 80s, the Band contingent stretched the length of a city block with musicians and tappers and flag twirlers and rifle twirlers.

    In 1985, Kast himself was surprised to take over as conductor of the Band just as it geared up to perform its first Dance-Along Nutcracker® at the Galleria Center. Lesesne Van Antwerp, the Band’s third conductor, died suddenly of AIDS, as had Sims earlier that year, and as would more than 150 members through the 80s and 90s.

    With the show around the corner, Kast picked up the baton and led the Band for two years. Along with the first two Dance-Along Nutcrackers®, he conducted two early concerts of the newly formed Lesbian/Gay Bands of America. The 986 circus-themed concert, “With the Greatest of Ease” at Davies Hall, was quite likely the only time a trapeze artist flew above the symphony stage. For the concert at the 1987 March on Washington, bands around the country gathered for “Let Freedom Ring”—the first LGBTQ event in DAR Constitution Hall. 

    Kast said, “My vision for the band was to survive the AIDS crisis and provide a space for music to soothe the grieving and the sorrow.”

    Nancy Corporon (Artistic Director 1990–1996)

    At the time the Band first marched down Market Street, Nancy Corporon had just come out to Sims from NYC and he leaned on her about starting a gay band there. They’d met earlier in college and studied French horn together with Dale Clevenger, principal horn of the Chicago Symphony, before moving to opposite coasts. Corporon said that by the time Sims persuaded her in 1979, there was a real sense that they were organizing a movement with bands already formed in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston.

    “Jon started the band because he firmly believed that communicating through music was the one way the L/G community could change hearts and minds,” Corporon wrote. “Who can argue with a Sousa march and a band dressed like The Music Man?”

    By 1990, Corporon had moved to San Francisco, and after one conductor simply walked away over the grief of friends dying, she was selected to lead “Jon’s band.” During her tenure, she won a Cable Car Award for conducting the 1992 LGBA concert “Dreams: Toward the Next Rainbow” at Bill Graham Auditorium, conducted at the City’s first domestic partner’s ceremony in Herbst Auditorium, organized a pep Band for the Giants first Until There’s a Cure Day at Candlestick Park and led a quintet at the opening of the Hormel LGBT library. What she’s most proud of, though, is starting a series of low-cost, free concerts with terrific music in a local church. She said, “I think it had the most significant impact on rebuilding the band.”

    “I was thrilled to be a part of Jon’s legacy, to work to see his vision and dreams remain and grow, as real and important as the day he gave the first downbeat,” Corporon added. “But more than that, I am ever so grateful for the hundreds of committed members and volunteers who have kept the band going all these years, especially at those times when the band’s future seemed so dark. These are the folks who got the band to its 40th anniversary, so kudos and heartfelt gratitude to them.”

    Jadine Louie (Artistic Director 1996–2006, 2009–2012)

    When the Band first marched down Market Street, Jadine Louie was a teenager watching the parade from a tree.

    “I connected to the music. I connected to that performance and the positive message it was communicating,” Louie said. “Up until then, I didn’t really feel a part of what was called the Gay community. It was primarily white. It was primarily male. And as much as I loved my friends, dancing, taking drugs and male sex were not what we had in common.”

    Louie joined in 1995 and was quickly tapped as Assistant Conductor by Nancy and took over from her when she was ready to retire. The longest-serving Artistic Director, Louie programmed more than a decade of community concerts, took the Dance-Along Nutcracker from a concert with dancing to a variety show with theme and story, played in City Hall for the country’s first gay weddings, took the Band to Skywalker Ranch to play for George Lucas, saw the Band named Official Band of SF twice, collaborated on concerts with Jose Sarria and Mark Leno and Grammy-award-winning Lesbian composer Jennifer Higdon, to name a few highlights.

    One of her favorite events, though, was the Ol’ Fashioned 4th of July Alternative Family Picnic hosted by Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. The event was created by Mario Garcia Durham and Linda Lucero to answer negative comments made by Vice President Dan Quayle about single and LGBT parents and a performance precisely in the tradition of Sims’ gay Band. “What’s more American than a marching band?” Louie wrote. “Well, July 4th and a marching band!”

    Louie was also honored to be invited to guest conduct Bernstein’s Candide Overture at the Band’s 40th anniversary concert, Then and Now, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater on April 14. At the centerpiece of the overture is a song titled “Glitter and Be Gay,” an obvious favorite of this Band. Louie conducted it at the 20th anniversary concert and it was performed for the 10th anniversary concert too.

    “It’s one of those warhorses that musicians love because every time you play it, it is fresh again,” she explains. “A piece can be 200 years old, and still every time we play together, whether weekly or daily, we make it right now, new again. Playing meaningful music does that—it connects you to those who played it before and those who will play it after you.”

    Louie said that 40 years later, the Band’s message of visibility through music is still important: “This idea of coming out … is still a vital message today. You can spend all the time you want practicing and making perfect music in your own little room or in small little recitals for your own amusement, or you can take the next step and practice for the purpose of communicating and creating a shared experience well beyond your own circle, out into the world. That takes courage and it takes pride in yourself knowing just who you are. So, the message is still fresh. Come out, Come out! And to the band I say, ‘I’ll see you at the 50th anniversary.’”

    Pete Nowlen (Artistic Director 2013–present)

    When the Band first marched down Market Street, Pete Nowlen was a sophomore in high school in Billings, MT.

    In 2013, at the time Nowlen accepted the post of Artistic Director of the Band, he led no fewer than six music groups. Today he serves as Director of Concert Bands at UC Davis, Artistic Director of Camerata California Chamber Choir and the Rancho Cordova Civic Light Orchestra, Artistic Advisor of Music in the Mountains in Nevada County, CA, and is the founder and Artistic Director of Sacramento’s VITA Academy. I asked him how directing the Band is different from his other groups.

    “It is an opportunity to merge my artistic career and my activist soul,” he replied. “And the amazing people keep me coming back. One of the amazing moments for me was to (witness) Jose Sarria’s interment in Colma—and to see representatives of most of the major religions and denominations participating in the service. It really showed the progress that has been made.”

    “A lot has changed in 40 years,” he continued. “Today we do a lot of ‘preaching to the choir’—supporting our community—but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what keeps spirits up and outlooks hopeful as the work continues. We do find opportunities to educate our community and to reach beyond and impact lives and conversations.”

    Nowlen has already programmed and conducted five-going-on-six years of community concerts, overseen production of a new CD highlighting music from the Panama Pacific International Exhibition (PPIE), collaborated on a concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of that world fair with Billy Sauerland and the LGCSF, brought that music to a national conference of concert bands, conducted at two LGBA conferences, the Band’s 40th Anniversary concert featuring the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and he is part of the artistic leadership for two LGBA concerts at the August Gay Games in Paris, France.

    “The PPIE project and our recent benefit concerts in Sacramento have been very, very special,” Nowlen wrote. 
    “The PPIE project created a historical musical document of a great event in San Francisco a hundred years ago and revived some great music that had fallen into neglect. The benefit concerts in Sacramento for Joshua’s House and the gender health center raised a substantial amount of money to support those causes and also allowed us to reach new communities with our inclusive message.”

    Nowlen is looking forward to playing in the horn quintet to honor Sims at the gala on June 20.

    He said, “It’s awesome that four of the artistic directors have been horn players—five if you count Jon Sims—and that four of us will all be in attendance at the gala, and able to perform.”

    Mike Wong (Artistic Director Marching & Pep Programs)

    When the Band marched down Market Street, Mike Wong wasn’t born yet, but he’s marched Market many times since then, joining the Band in 2000 and leading the group as drum major for almost a decade. As the leader of the Band’s most visible branch and a teacher at UC Berkeley, Mike’s focus is on the future of the LGBT community.

    “With the newest generation of activists, whether the youngest members of the Band or in the community at large, there is a huge energy to preserve the advances that our community has achieved, while at the same time fighting the newest fights for gender identity and intersectionality that are the newest battle grounds for LGBT rights,” Wong said.

    “The Band endeavors to represent the best of our community,” he continued. “We have members that span sexuality, gender identity, race and ethnicity, age, socio-economic status and the differently-abed, in an effort to reflect the true intersectionality of our community. The Band plays in over 40 events per year, most free of charge, ranging from concerts such as our 40th Anniversary concert at the Palace of Fine Arts in April, to small community gigs such as Rainbow Day at Leonard Flynn Elementary, to civic events such as the SF LGBT Center Re-Opening and the San Mateo LGBT Pride Center Grand Opening, to protest marches such as the 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches.”

    Heidi Beeler has been a member of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band since 1991. Tickets to the June 20 Gala Dinner at the War Memorial Green Room are now on sale (

    San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band 


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    Members of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band Family

    (Editor’s Note: No coverage of the SFLGFB could be complete without input from members of the Band. Here we present the stories of several. Included is the time that each has been in the Band and the instruments played.)

    Lisa Canjura-Clayton: 27 years; bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, bari sax, contrabass clarinet

    My future wife basically hauled me into Bronstein Music when she learned I played bass clarinet in high school. It was an instrument with a sound that I absolutely loved, but I hadn’t played it in 15 or so years. The next thing I knew, I had a brand new bass clarinet! Band filled a big ol’ musical hole I didn’t know I had. It has since become my second family. Music is a big, huge cultural unifier, and I love being a loud and visible part of the LGBT community at large.”

    Kevin R. Tam: 19 years; euphonium, trombone, percussion

    “I found the Band waaaaaay back when through a friend on who played the same instrument as me. Through that friendship and the years with the Band, I connected with my partner in life. While we have outside interests, the Band seems to bring us all together as a family. Since joining, I’ve begun arranging music and expanding the musical repertoire of the Band!”

    Sue Leonardi: 19 years; trumpet

    “I was working a Pride booth in 1999 that was adjacent to the SFLGFB’s booth. I was so excited to see the uniforms, the instruments and band members! I wrote my phone number on the list and received a follow up call to attend the next rehearsal.

    I went to that rehearsal and felt so accepted and supported as a person and musician. Instant family!”

    Sally Canjura-Clayton: 27 years; percussion

    “I came out in 1980 and was looking for a way to meet people. I joined the SF Flag Corps in 1984, which was then part of the Band’s organization. I was on the Board of Directors and with Flag Corps until 1988. I left and came back to join the Band in 1991. It was like coming home, since I knew so many of the band members already. Over the years, band members come and go, but the friendships last and the memories of good times will always be with me. I guess that is why I come back every week to rehearsal. It’s an opportunity to get together, to be part of a family making music, supporting each other and sometimes squabbling like brothers and sisters do. But that is all part of family. Even now, at rehearsals, we get together and say, “Remember that time … ? We had so much fun!” Family is like that and Band family is more meaningful to me because we are together making music and being part of, and creating, Gay History.”

    Ricky Holtz: 1.5 years; flute, French horn, trumpet

    “A San Diego native, I now live in the Bay Area by way of the East Coast. I moved to the Bay Area in 2014 to pursue a graduate degree from UC Berkeley, and now I live and work in San Francisco as an engineer. Joining the band was an easy decision. The SFLGFB gives me a great forum to meet other musicians, to practice and perform new music, and to give back to the Bay Area. Whether it’s playing the soaring Candide Overture in Sacramento or pop tune countermelodies at San Francisco Pride, I’m thrilled at this opportunity to bring music to everyone who’s willing to listen.”

    Larry Hetrick: 1 year; trumpet

    “Coming from the Philadelphia Freedom Band to San Francisco to do residency in psychiatry, I planned on joining the famous, first LGBT( and straight) band in the world. But residency and practicing medicine took most of my life. After going through about 3 years of a mid-life crisis realizing my life was more than half over, I decided to work less and play more. And I am so happy I joined San Francisco’s official band: The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band. I love the band because we gay people are gay in the old sense of the word. We know how to love, have fun, and make music together. Also, being a psychiatrist, I’m interested in serving as a gay male role model, to help rid the world of hate and to promote love. And what better way to do it! Get people singing, dancing and having fun with us. Personally, the band has brought more meaning to my life and more loving relationships. Thank you SFLGFB! I’m in-love with you. Will you marry me?”


    Doug Litwin: 33 years; clarinet, bass drum, cymbals

    “I was a band geek through high school and college and always loved it. After seeing the Band in the 1985 SF Pride Parade, I knew I had to join. As someone said back then, being in this Band is a great way to make a political statement in a non-political way. Since my very first rehearsal was also the first one for the initial Dance-Along Nutcracker, I have a special connection to that show. I have seen first-hand the pure joy on the faces of children and adults as they experience that unique audience-participation event. A group like the SFLGFB can break down barriers between LGBT and non-LGBT communities through music and performance. Someone else said that there are three things that nobody hates: stuffed animals, soap bubbles and a marching band. That sums it up for me!”

    Kate Foust: 1.5 years; clarinet

    “I joined the Band late 2016 just when they were preparing for the Dance-Along Nutcracker. At the end of my first rehearsal, a clarinetist turned to me to said, ‘I know this all seems crazy. It’ll make sense soon. Please come back next week.’ It’s true that the rehearsal left quite an impression, a cluster of Tchaikovsky and cheesy superhero music. Even the artistic director didn’t know exactly how the pieces would fit together in this original work produced by the Band and cast. Fast forward to opening night of The Adventures of Captain Nutcracker. Now I had it all figured out—the music, the story, the bad jokes. Or so I thought. In the end, it was the audience that blew me away. Imagine a room full of boys and girls in tutus and superhero capes, twirling around as the band plays pieces from the Nutcracker Suite. I missed just about every musical entrance and often found the music hard to read through my teary eyes. The event was magical. The Band is magical. This all-volunteer organization, San Francisco’s Official Band, the First LGBTQ+ band in the whole world. The musicians are talented, inclusive, hilarious, friends, family, and I’m grateful to be one of them.”

    Patrice Mustaafaa: 4 years; flute

    “I identify as a Gay American Muslim of African descent. I drove cross country from New York in June of 2013. I was looking for a fresh start, a safe place and my own community. I soon found that San Francisco was not the sanctuary city of years past. It was not as liberal as perceived by those of us on the outside looking in. I was greeted with ‘Ageism,’ ‘Racism,’ and a hatred for Muslims. While standing and chatting on a public sidewalk in the Financial District, I and two other gentlemen were referred to as ‘Ni–ers’ and told to move. And after being here for a year and struggling to find work, to find friends, to find my own community and a safe place, SFLGFB came into my life. I met Moira Wilmes, Barbara Jones and Michael Kerner. I was encouraged to come and join them, even though I had not picked up a flute in 30 years. I was not only welcomed, but embraced. I found my community and my safe place. There was one small exception: the band was predominantly white. And although I didn’t see that aspect of myself reflected, I was welcomed to integrate and bring some ‘color’ to the Board of Directors. I believe that I am the first Gay American Muslim of African Descent to sit on the Board. And to be a humorous rebel, I purchased a black flute. It got much attention by our fan base, especially the African Americans. So, it became a way for me to represent people of color. I went on to purchase a purple, red, hot pink, sea blue and yellow flute. I have to move away and it breaks my heart to leave my family. I am headed to Chicago, and I will join the band there: Lakeside Pride. But SFLGFB will always be my home band, and I will always come back. And I will always be proud to be a part of its 40-year legacy.”

    David Korn: 4 years; trombone, euphonium

    “I’m a native of Long Island, NY, and hold a master’s degree in Opera Performance from the Manhattan School of Music. I’ve been a soloist with the Aspen and Tanglewood summer music festivals, the Seattle Opera, and the New York Philharmonic. I’ve also played trombone and euphonium since I was nine, spending two summers at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. I now work in San Francisco in the design and construction industry. I joined the Band in search of community and the opportunity to continue making music. I found both. The Band has become an outlet and great resource for creating music, meeting new friends and supporting the LGBT community. It’s an honor to play with the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band!”

    Scott Shelp: 10 years; clarinet, saxophone

    “I joined the SFLGFB in 2007 and served on its Board of Directors in 2011. In 2016, I had the honor of directing the saxophone choir at the Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA) conference in Palm Springs, which is the coolest thing I’ve ever done. In the past, I’ve performed with BandTogether, the Gateway Men’s Chorus in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. I’m part of a professional men’s music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, which encourages musical excellence and camaraderie in college and beyond. I see the SFLGFB as an excellent way to live out my Sinfonian mission while supporting the GLBTQ+ community.”

    Jesse Schofield: 2 years; euphonium

    “I first moved to the Bay Area in 2013. At the time, my entire life was based on work, and I never had time to commit to extracurricular activities. In 2015, I changed jobs and moved to Humboldt County to start my career as a transportation planner. While I was there, I joined a community concert band. Even though it had been 15 years since I played music in high school, honking out a Bb scale on a borrowed horn came right back to me; it was like riding a bike! I loved rediscovering my inner band geek. In 2016, I was finally able to move back to the Bay Area, and one of the first orders of business was finding an ensemble. A quick Google search lead me to the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band. My first concert was the Spotlight on Broadway Sing-Along. For a community concert band that doesn’t require auditions, I was immediately impressed with how challenging some of the music was. I am still pleased to be challenged with some fantastic pieces and to be able to grow as a musician. Now in my third year with band, I find myself growing my skills beyond music, helping to write and produce the Dance-Along Nutcracker as well as organizing sectional rehearsals.”

    Gary Sponholtz: 23 years; tuba, mallets, piano, organ

    “Being part of SFLGFB remains my oldest committed relationship. From my youth I knew I preferred the love of my own gender. As a corn-fed, wood-splitting country boy, I suppressed my (carnal) desires, throwing myself into great adventures: living among the peoples of Central America in a peace corps role, and then with the U.S. Navy on Guam & Hawaii. Then California as a Friar minor (Old Missions). Though I didn’t pursue romance, the brothers helped me to see who I really am. I first discovered gay-bands in Washington, D.C. I didn’t know what pride was about yet, only I felt drawn to the band!

    In 1994, I went to an SFLGFB performance of the Dance Along Nutcracker at Yerba Buena Gardens! I joined up right after that & just in time for the Chinese New Year parade! Marching for all the world (live TV too!) to see. Since 1995, I’ve played during Pride parades and concerts all over the world. I’ve played in three Presidential Inaugurals in D.C. and the Gay Games in Cleveland, Koln, and Chicago—Paris is next. Join the band. Be part of the world!”

    Michael Mehr: 31 years; tuba, sousaphone, a little trombone

    “I’m in the Band to keep myself involved with live music making, playing with others socially, giving back to my communities (gay, straight and otherwise), and keeping up a sense of family. I have so many opportunities with the Band that I would never have had otherwise. For example, I can look back on travel to, and playing my instrument in, international places like Dublin, Vancouver, Cologne, Amsterdam, London, and so many U.S. cities like Chicago, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Kansas City, Cleveland and on and on. So many lovely experiences like Band Camps under the redwoods at Cazadero, marching in Presidential Inaugural Parades, traveling with the Band on buses and even airplanes—ask me how we used to crack up our flight attendants, which worked every time! Meeting people from all walks of life and making a difference in theirs by the music we played. Visiting friends whom I might never see otherwise because of how separated we are geographically but finding how like-minded we are under the surface (and how different, as well). Learning to cherish our similarities and differences, and using music to approach a better understanding of our common human condition. Mind expanding discussions about inclusivity, privilege, and society, and realizing where I’m at in the spectrum of diversity of our culture. For all of these reasons, and so many more, I am, and will remain, a member of this Band and the overall Lesbian/Gay Band Association (LGBA) for life.

    I have participated in every SF Pride Parade since I moved to California in the fall of 1976, but I had convinced myself that, much as I loved to get back involved with music, which I had given up during my college years for computer and electrical engineering studies, a 70-mile round-trip to rehearsals every week during commute hours was just too much. It took me 9 years and a story involving the 1984 KFJC Radio “Louie, Louie” Marathon, a rental sousaphone, and a ‘threat’ from my lover Gary to make me realize I needed to just do it. So, I approached the Band at their booth after the 1987 Pride Parade, and the rest was history. I’m very happy that the Band was able to keep itself together for those nine years without me and am heartened to see that we are still going strong after 40. I’m looking forward to the big 50th anniversary celebrations to come!

    Patti Upsavs: 3 years; percussion, clarinet

    “I joined the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band in 2015. I am an active member in the percussion section for our Concert Band, and I play snare drum for the Marching and Pep Band. I also play clarinet and have performed with the Ventura College Symphony Orchestra and, more recently, in the percussion section with the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Choir. After searching for a couple of years for a band to join to fulfill the simple fact of my love of playing music, I came across the SFLGFB’s website. I sent an email and was warmly welcomed by Doug Litwin, the Band’s current President and former clarinet section manager, and Mike Wong, the Band’s multi-­talented Artistic Director, drum major and musician. What I ended up finding was not only a band. I found a band with a mission: “To promote visibility of LGBT communities,” a statement that I support in the great community where I choose to live and work. I also found a place where I can continue my love of playing music, and a group of talented people who embraced me with open arms.”