The New York Gay Community Marching Band held its first rehearsal on September 24, 1979, and the event will live forever in Gay American History. The Band's very first performance at the Greater Gotham Business Council's Gay Market 1979 was televised on NBC News, and even Mayor Koch bought a button that proclaimed "I Love the New York Gay Community Marching Band!"
The brainchild of founders Nancy Corporon, Bob Wolff, and James Roman, the NYGCMB is actually one of eleven Gay Marching Bands now performing nationally. This buoyant movement which spans the nation is an exercise in Gay Pride, with members displaying their talents not only as musicians, but as educators as well. As Lesbians and Gay men work together as one unified force, they offer the Gay Community a unique way to stand up to be counted, displaying a "positive gay image" to the heterosexual community, dispelling the hysterical stereotypes so often exploited.
But gay politics is really not what the NYGCMB is all about. It's about music. It's a chance to meet people with common interests and common goals. It's a chance for amateur musicians to share their knowledge and grow stronger as friends and performers. But especially, it's a chance to see faces light upon New York City sidewalks as the familiar strains of Sousa marches attract enthusiastic crowds. It's a continually brief love affair with the people in the street.
While the socio-political statement may be the catalyst that keeps the membership together, and reminds the audience of whom they're watching, it's the desire to entertain that keeps each performer striving toward new artistic heights. When bandmembers know that they all share a common background, the incentive to work together is a strong one. Amateur musicians who haven't touched their instruments in years suddenly find new friends and instructors within the Band's ranks, and work together at rediscovering their musicianship. Obviously, if each section of instruments in the Band performs well, then the music they all create together is even more fulfilling to the performers, not just the audience. It's this high level of respect and understanding for each other that makes the New York Gay Community Marching Band unique.
The first fifteen months were astonishingly eventful! The Band was awarded Grand Prize at the Fourth-of -July Parade in Provincetown, Massachusetts, its first out of-town engagement. The Band performed at the Gay American Arts Festival,making its Lincoln Center debut in the Damrosch Bandshell, and also spread good will at the annual Spruce Street Festival in Philadelphia, played the Star Spangled Banner for the annual Police-vs.-Gays Softball Game in Central Park, and joyfully led the Gay Pride March up Fifth Avenue. But those happy events took months of preparation; arduous marching rehearsals on the abandoned West Side Highway, weekly rehearsals in cramped quarters, street performances in rain and snow, and the private devotion each member pursues while practicing at home. So, if there's an extra excitement about the Band tonight, it's because this Alice Tully Hall concert represents the culmination of all the Band's previous endeavors.
Some activists proclaim Gay Pride by chanting in the streets; others do it with more subtlety by simply taking their instruments out of the closet. Tonight that pride belongs to the audience as well, as they recognize the legitimacy of the New York Gay Community Marching Band, and the proof that We Are Everywhere!