The Official Band of San Francisco
San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band is the first openly-gay musical organization in the world, inspiring the formation of LGBTQ+ bands, choruses and performing groups around the globe.
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 four decades. Ever since making a splash by marching up Market Street with Harvey Milk’s convertible in the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, the Band has been appearing throughout the City and its environs to promote LGBTQ+ visibility. In the time since then, we’ve played at community and civic events throughout San Francisco, the Bay, and worldwide.
Our community has been incredibly supportive, helping us to fundraise and awarding us numerous accolades, including being named by city ordinance “The Official Band of the City and County of San Francisco”. For over 40 years, the Band has continued to play with pride and build Jon’s envisioned world where music could put a known face on coming out, where music builds bridges, and where it wouldn’t matter whether you were queer or not. In the words of our inimitable founder Jon Sims, “Our Message is Music!”
Upon its founding in 1978, the Band became the first openly-gay musical group in the world. In the over 40 years since then, we have tirelessly marched forward with our mission of fostering understanding of the LGBTQ+ community through musical performance.
The Band had advocated for equality by supporting local and national organizations and rallies, including the Trans March, the Women’s March, AIDS Walk, and Pride events all around California and beyond. Through our Cable Car Award-winning Community Concert Series, we showcase the creative talents of our community and share the wonder of both classical and modern music. We continually strive to highlight and elevate music composed by women, minority, and LGBTQ+ composers. Our year of outreach culminates in the Dance-Along Nutcracker, our own zany twist on the holiday classic, which thousands of Bay Area families have made a part of their holiday tradition. We imbue each year’s show with the values we hold highest: hope, kindness, and equality.
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 San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band is best captured in the revised lyrics to a popular Broadway song written by our 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)
Founding Member of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association
The 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.
The LGBA supports the formation of new bands while also organizing many major “massed band” performances. These performances have included every Gay Games, three Marches on Washington, four Presidential Inaugurations, and appearances in major venues including the Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, the Alamo, DAR Constitution Hall (Washington, D.C.), Jordan Hall (Boston), Jones Hall (Houston), Davies Symphony Hall (San Francisco), the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park during the 2006 Gay Games VII held in Chicago, the State Theater in Cleveland during 2014’s Gay Games 9, and in the Casino de Paris during 2018’s Gay Games 10.