Minority Status

So I spent Labor Day weekend in Ohio performing with my OSU alumni marching band at the OSU-Navy game.  Since I don’t like to have the Friday evening music rehearsal in Columbus be the first time my mouthpiece has touched my lips in a year, I spend an August week or two prior to the reunion down in the basement blatting away just to develop some muscle tone in my lips.

This year, I added a bit of a wrinkle.  Each year when the OSU reunion weekend is over, I lament a bit that, having built up to a playing level relatively devoid of pain, I then park my trumpet in the closet for another year.  So a few weeks ago I Googled around for community bands.

I received an email that a band was starting up its fall concert band schedule, and it seemed a very opportune time to check them out and also to get in some meaningful playing ahead of the 2009 OSU reunion.  So I showed up for practice and I’m impressed with the size of the group (75+), the instrumentation and the friendly enthusiasm.

As rehearsal begins, I’m even more deeply impressed with their musicianship and overall sound.  We play for about an hour, and then there’s a break.  They go through a set of announcements, blah blah, and my ears prick up a bit when the word “community” arises more than once.  Then there’s mention of the Pride Parade in a tone more proprietary than merely participative; and finally, when they begin to discuss a Labor Day weekend trip by many of them to something called the LGBA convention in New Orleans, the nickel finally drops.

I don’t know why the name Rainbow City Band didn’t clue me in.  Probably because we refer to Seattle in so many different ways: The Emerald City, The Jet City, Queen City (no hint of suspicion there, either).  “Rainbow” simply suggested something inclusive, maybe a little Jesse Jackson-ish.  And I must not have perused the web site, relying instead on my email communication with this fellow.

So there I was, enjoying playing with a fine group of musicians, directed by two terrific folks whose day jobs are as middle school band directors, harboring a guilty secret, feeling like an impostor.  I played through the rehearsal anyway, since I valued the reps ahead of the OSU reunion and was enjoying myself musically in a way that I hadn’t in decades.

Then, at the end, I outed myself to the membership chairman and was prepared for a nice-knowin’-ya.  Instead, he assured me that there were a few other straight folks in the band, and that I was welcome to participate as long as I supported their mission.

I paid my dues and went to their rehearsal the next week, on the heels of my weekend playing frenzy in Columbus, and it clicked right into place - I’m playing well enough not to destroy their ensemble and it’s very satisfying.  And since, in high school, the jocks all thought us band geeks were gay anyway, the ambiance doesn’t represent all that much of a paradigm shift.

We have a concert at the end of October, and I understand my gay friends are looking forward to the spectacle.


  1. I’m glad your trumpet is out of the closet!

  2. Carroll:

    EXCELLENT, Phil! “Inclusiveness” rolls both ways. I’m really glad you have been made to feel so welcome. If Dick Jones’ experience as a “returning to performance music in mid-lifer” is any example, you will have a blast!

  3. Phil:

    Robin - Nice riff!

    Carroll - I’m certainly not the musician that Dick is, but, yeah, I’m enjoying it a lot. Come to our concert!

  4. ha! great fun, Phil! I’m glad to know you’ve found such a wonderful band, and that it’s ‘gay’ to boot! Hey, we queers love to have straight people around us who don’t give a damn!