The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band (SFLGFB) is the first openly gay musical organization in the world, inspiring the formation of LGBT bands, choruses and performing groups around the globe. On a local level, SFLGFB is the Official Band of San Francisco, having been given that honor by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in honor of the Band’s 20th and 25th anniversaries.
Founded in 1978 by Jon Sims at the height of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade, the Band has made music to build understanding among communities of all sexual orientations and identities for more than three decades. SFLGFB first appeared in public when it marched up Market Street behind Harvey Milk’s convertible in the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, an event recreated in the Oscar-winning film “Milk.”
Over its 38-year history, SFLGFB has regularly performed at events ranging in size from huge (four presidential inaugurations, the quadrennial Gay Games Ceremonies, pride parades, SF Giants games) to small (schools, museums, parks, street fairs and rural parades). Performing 15-20 times a year, the Band is committed to community service. In addition to performing for hundreds of thousands at parades throughout the year, the Band presents its Cable Car Award-winning Community Concert Series, a series of free, pops-style symphonic concerts. Each June, SFLGFB participates in the Annual Pride Concert or the Golden Gate Park Band Festival.
In December, the Band kicks up its heels for the Dance-Along Nutcracker®. The zany San Francisco holiday tradition attracts national media attention and builds bridges between genders, ages and sexual identities while putting a smile on everyone’s face. The Dance-Along Nutcracker® draws crowds and has been regularly featured in local and national news media, including the San Francisco Chronicle; Good Morning, America; the Today Show and The Wall Street Journal.
The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band provides for the education and musical development of its members, promotes visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, and with its allies, fosters understanding among diverse communities through public performance.
Beyond the formal mission statement, the spirit of SFLGFB is best captured in the revised lyrics to a popular Broadway song written by founder Jon Sims:
If they could see me now, that little home-town clan…
we’re singing and we’re playing with this all-gay band.
I’d like for all the world to see for a fact
that we’re a source of power they’ll never send back!
The closet’s empty now, just like it ought to be—
the time is right for us, just look around and see!
What a set-up, Holy Cow! (They’d never believe it.)
If my friends could see me now.
If My Friends Could See Me Now (New lyrics by Jon Sims, 1978)
Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA), formed in 1982 when eight gay bands got together for the first time in Chicago. Several of these bands came into existence directly or indirectly from the efforts of our own founder, Jon Sims. Now, LGBA has nearly 30 member groups from coast to coast, plus groups in Canada, Australia and Europe. As a massed band, this group has performed en masse at such milestone events as an electrifying first concert at the Hollywood Bowl (1984), the ‘87, ’93, and 2000 marches on Washington, each of the eight Gay Games (marching, field shows, concerts, and pep bands), and Presidential Inaugurations for Bill Clinton an Barack Obama.Following the creation of the San Francisco Band, lesbian/gay bands quickly sprang up in Los Angeles, New York City, Houston, Chicago, and other cities across the continent. Today, there are more than twenty bands in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe in the Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA). In September 1982, these bands formed LGBA. LGBA has supported the formation of new bands while also organizing many major “massed band” performances. These have included every Gay Games, three Marches on Washington, two Presidential Inaugurations, and appearances in major venues including Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, the Alamo, DAR Constitution Hall, Jordan Hall (Boston), Jones Hall (Houston), Davies Symphony Hall (San Francisco), and the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park during the 2006 Gay Games VII held in Chicago.