Gary Barber

As I sat in the hallway waiting for our turn on the performance stage at the top of the stairs under the rotunda at City Hall yesterday I was musing about our history with this building and with the City of San Francisco. For the founding of the band in 1978 coincides with the assassination of Harvey Milk in 1978 at City Hall.

I was imagining the horror of 1978 as I stood calmly in the hallway with my trombone (my only weapon!) at my side watching the men of the GMC giving us the thumbs up sign as they walked off-stage. How strange to be there for a cultural event honoring the new city mayor only 34 years after the deaths of Moscone and Milk and our own founding. Could anyone alive in 1978 have guessed at how the future would turn out? As Ruth Keys said to me, “We are now tied to the history of this building:” Could Jon Sims have guessed at what he was creating when he organized the first musicians of our band?

So I want to thank the band for the chance to participate in yesterday’s gig. Our performance was short and as we were scheduled last in the program the audience was small, but there we were playing our hearts out at the top of the stairs. And thanks to time and John Sims there were clear notes reverberating in the hallways of city hall instead of gunshots.

Here is a quote from Harvey Milk from his “Stonewall” speech: “On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country … We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets… We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives”.

Earlier I described my trombone as a weapon and that is exactly what it is in the context of what our band does: it is a weapon I use at each performance to fight for justice and honor and peace. I think it is exactly what Harvey Milk and John Sims would have wished for had they been able to see into the future.

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