The Official Band of San Francisco
The 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. On a local level, in December 2018, San Francisco Mayor London Breed signed an ordinance into law declaring the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band the ‘Official Band of the City and County of San Francisco’ which coincided with the end of the Band’s 40th Anniversary year.
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. The Band 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 over 40-year history, the band 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 40 – 50 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. Every June, the band also participates in the Annual Pride Concert or the Golden Gate Park Band Festival.
Each December, the band kicks up its heels for the Dance-Along Nutcracker®. This zany San Francisco-only 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 large audiences 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 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.