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LGBT band marches at inaugural parade
by Sarah Toce

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The Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA), a musical organization comprising marching and concert bands from across the United States and around the world, was selected from more than 2,800 bands in the nation to perform for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden during the presidential inaugural parade Jan. 21.

The LGBA is the only LGBT group in history to be invited to march in such a parade. Their first appearance in the inaugural parade was in 2009.

The 215-piece LGBA band will be composed of members of its bands, orchestras, and cheer squads from 27 states. They will join groups from across the country as well as from the Armed Forces in the historic parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, which follows President Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles, Inc. Board Chair Andrew Favreau spoke with Windy City Times.

"Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles is a member of LGBA, which has more than 35 member organizations from across the United States and around the world. LGBA was founded in Chicago in 1982 by seven member bands, including the group that became Lakeside Pride," said Favreau.

He added, "As part of the application process, LGBA asked their membership for the names if individuals who were interested in marching. Nine individuals from Lakeside Pride asked to participate in what became the final 215-piece LGBA marching band that was invited to perform."

The LGBA received more than 30 letters of support from Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen throughout the United States, including Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand (N.Y.), Congressman Ed Pastor (Ariz.), Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.), Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (N.J.) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (R.I.).

Franken said, "This band truly represents a broad swath of our country from sea to shining sea and their presence in the inaugural parade will provide a powerful image of the GLBT community for all to see."

When asked for his support during the inaugural parade application process, Pastor said, "Marching bands are one of our nation's great traditions, and the LGBA helps continue this legacy while representing the tremendous diversity of our country. The LGBA is no stranger to fame. In fact, this will be the second time that it has marched in an inaugural parade, having made history as the first gay and lesbian group to march in a Presidential Inaugural Parade for President Obama in 2009. In addition, the LGBA previously performed as part of both the 1993 and 1997 inaugural celebrations for President Bill Clinton, as well as in major events both nationally and abroad."

Would there be an LGBT marching band in a Mitt Romney inaugural celebration? Favreau said that he couldn't speculate, but said, "Members of LGBA were asked to commit to take part in the application before the results of the election were known. The individuals who are marching in the 2013 inauguration were committed to march regardless of the election outcome."

Favreau and his team were particularly moved by the possibility to represent the state of Illinois.

"By marching in this parade we represent LGBT individuals from across America. It's especially moving for each of us from Lakeside Pride to be marching for a president who also calls Chicago home. The inaugural parade will be seen by millions of people around the world, and participating in this event shows everyone that we are out and proud—and happy—as gay Americans," said Favreau. "We hope our performance inspires and excites our community, their families and friends, as well as LGBT people who have not yet been able to come out."

Look for these nine members from Lakeside Pride as part of the 215-member LGBA marching band: Erin Campbell, mellophone; Andrew Favreau, clarinet; Denise Montiel, percussion; Jessie Reuteler, mellophone; Dale Spaulding, euphonium; Brandon Strawn, trombone; Melissa Terrell, trumpet; Kent Watkins, flute; Mark Wienand, euphonium.

Once the LGBA was notified they would be marching in the historic parade, organization leadership had to quickly secure hotel and rehearsal space to accommodate musicians and support personnel from throughout the United States.

LGBA Artistic Director Marita Begley said that we could expect various musical choices with one common theme—hope and pride.

"For the 25-minute, 1.6-mile parade, the LGBA band will perform a total of four pieces, each of which speaks to a different aspect of Americans' hope and pride during this historic inauguration," said Begley. "Music selections will include 'Tonight' from West Side Story; 'Give Me Everything (Tonight),' popularized by Latino American rapper Pitbull; 'Battle Hymn of the Republic'/'Simple Gifts'; and 'Edge of Glory' by Lady Gaga."

"President Obama has sent a strong message to America and to the world that he will defend the rights of all Americans. President Obama's actions to make our union more perfect through his support of the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and his vocal support of marriage equality has emboldened all of us to ask again what we can do for our country," said Lesniak.

"I have been deeply heartened by President Obama's commitment to creating one of the most open and inclusive administrations in history," said Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. "By choosing the LGBA for the Inaugural Parade this spirit will continue by treating Americans to the performance of a talented, worthy and deserving musical group."

Favreau told Windy City Times that this is only the beginning for the LGBA and Lakeside.

"The LGBA and its member bands appear in hundreds of concerts, parades, and community events every year," he said. "One of several Lakeside Pride appearances later this year will be our legacy event—the Chicago Pride Parade. Our Lakeside Pride Freedom Marching Band appears in this parade annually. Lakeside Pride and its legacy ensembles were all formed out of the desire to have a marching band in the annual pride parade. Our shhh…OUT! Lakeside Pride Jazz Ensemble and Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band also have concerts scheduled.

"For LGBA, one of the next major events will be Gay Games 2014 in Cleveland. LGBA recently appeared in the 2012 World Pride in London and at Gay Games 2010 in Cologne. In 2006, Lakeside Pride helped LGBA coordinate activities at Gay Games Chicago, including a field show for opening ceremonies at Soldier Field, a special concert in Millennium Park, as well as closing ceremonies at Wrigley Field."

Does Favreau feel that there is a cultural shift occurring since 2009?

"Yes," he answered. "Since 2009 when LGBA first appeared in the Presidential Inaugural Parade, we have seen an increase in the number of public figures who have felt comfortable coming out as members of the LGBT community. At the same time, television and movies regularly feature LGBT characters that connect with all people—straight and gay. Our appearance in this year's parade is part of the culture shift that we're seeing around us."

Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles was named a 2011 inductee to the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame.

"This was a very special experience for everyone involved with Lakeside Pride—including all the legacy ensembles that go back to 1979 with the Chicago Gay Pride Band," said Favreau. "Receiving this recognition from Mayor Rahm Emanuel for our contributions to both the LGBT community and to the City of Chicago told us that years of bringing together members and friends of the LGBT community to perform music for audiences from all walks of life made a big difference for us all."

The Lesbian and Gay Band Association, founded in Chicago in 1982 by seven member bands, has grown to 37 member organizations in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

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