For Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles, Chicago's premier LGBTQ instrumental music organization, the past 20 years have been about pride and the music it creates.
Lakeside Pride, part of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association ( LGBA ), stands as an inclusive forum for adult musicians of all skill levels to come together to play music, whether they play their instrument regularly or are just getting back into playing after several years. With just more than 200 active members, there are almost 50 performances every year across Chicago. Musicians of all skill levels and abilities are welcome to join without auditioning.
Bradley Fritz, chair of Lakeside Pride's board of directors, said it is the love of music that pulls everyone together. "The LGBTQ community tends to be a close-knit community in a lot of places and the music community tends to be close-knit as well," he said. "So, when you combine the two of them, everybody instantly has this dual connection that brings us together very quickly.
"Everybody's open and accepting and talkative and interested in who you are and what you do and why you want to be part of this org and it really just forms a family that we have. It's such a unique experience outside of any other type of LGBTQ community and outside of another type of music community that I've been involved in."
Lakeside Pride was preceded, in 1979, by the Chicago Gay Pride Band, a marching band that performed at the annual Chicago Pride Parade. The current organization was formed in 1997, later incorporated as a non-profit organization, and through the years has developed different ensembles. It now stands as one of the biggest organizations of its kind.
Lakeside Pride is an umbrella group with three major ensembles: Jazz Orchestra, Marching Band and Symphonic Band. Additionally, Lakeside Pride has other small ensembles including Brass Quintet, Clarinet Choir, Salsa Band, Strayhorns Jazz Combo Wilde Cabaret and Woodwind Quintet.
"We're a whole family of ensembles that could do performances of all different sizes and all different types and can adapt to different performance venues," said Fritz who joined Lakeside Pride in 2014 and continues to play piano in the jazz orchestra as well as trumpet and French horn in the symphonic orchestra. This summer he will play trumpet in marching band with his husband.
Lakeside Pride's mission is to educate the public at large about the positive aspects of the metropolitan Chicago LGBT community through public musical performances, workshops and non-musical events.
"As a member-centric organization, we like to get together and just play music together, but we see the opportunity to use that music to make connections to the communities that are around usto step outside just the LGBT community and make those connections with those who are around us through music," said Fritz of the diverse group. "Music, of course, is the universal language. Everybody appreciates music and understands music on one level or another and to use it in such a way really brings us a sense of pride, it brings us a sense of purpose, beyond just our own enjoyment of playing in the ensembles."
In its 20th -anniversary year, Lakeside Pride has rebranded with a new logo featuring music notes colored with the six colors of the rainbow flag, forming the shape of the Chicago star. Fritz described the new logo as a symbol of the group's connection to the LGBTQ community, the music community and Chicago. He added the new image is modern, adaptable, iconic and stands for how far the organization has come.
"We've been growing so much recently, and expanding the number of ensembles we have and greatly expanding the number of performances that we have and really becoming more integrated into the wider LGBTQ community here in Chicago and the city as a whole," said Fritz. "We're performing 18 times this month, which is insane, plus we're actively participating in the festivals and we have members who are going around the country to participate in Pride in other cities with some of our sister bands. So, it's a really exciting time for us. I think it's a really exciting time for the LGBT community as well and we just feel fortunate and excited to be a part of it all."
For more information on Lakeside Pride, visit: lakesidepride.org/.