Words by Tess Becker
Florida legislature unveiled the so-called “Don’t Say Gay" bill on July 1st 2022, which would ban the mention of most forms of LGBTQ+ conversation in the classroom.
Since then, there have been legislative attacks against trans people and other people in the LGBTQ+ umbrella across the United States.
But in south Florida sits a small city called Wilton Manors that has been dubbed the ‘Second-Gayest City’ in America for a few years. Wilton Manors is home to a lot of LGBT-supporting organizations and one organization, South Florida’s Pride Wind Ensemble, wants to help queer kids and adults find a place where they can be themselves and play the music they love.
One particular ensemble is used to give queer kids an opportunity on stage around people that accept them: the South Florida Pride Youth Band.
“With more people identifying as LGBTQ earlier in their lives, it's vital that we create a safe space, protect against bullying and celebrate our diversity through the power of music,” said Adam DeRosa, board chair of the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble.
Over the years
The organization has seen drastic change over the years, starting off in 1986 in someone’s living room with just six musicians. Back then the band was called the Flamingo Freedom Band.
Today, they have around 60 members for any given concert and 12 years ago they started the aforementioned youth ensemble.
“The idea was to give a safe space for LGBTQ youth and their allies to make music together and stand up against bullying,” South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble Artistic Director, Dan Bassett, tells Smiley News.
“It was founded in a time when the Trevor Project was just getting underway and was a way for us as an adult ensemble to give back to the community.”
From the start, the ensemble gave away scholarships to deserving kids in need, a trend that continues today. They invite kids from the tri-county area of South Florida to rehearse for three weeks. On the fourth week, the kids put on a show at the Broward Center.
“Each year through donations and grants, we give away multiple $1,000 college scholarships,” Dan says. “This year, we're giving away 18 of those. Also, this year we've added a solo competition, which is a $5,000 scholarship.”
The South Florida Wind Ensemble has given away $159,000 in Youth Pride scholarship funds since 2012.
This coming Sunday – 26 February 2023 – they’re having their 12th Annual Youth Pride Band Concert to help distribute those funds. To Dan, helping the youth in the way that they do is the most important part of the organization.
“It's really a great way to connect students from the area as well as give back to the community,” Dan says.
“We just hope to reach a broader audience of people. It's always really important to have these gay organizations front, center and visible.”
Support the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble by finding out how you can donate or volunteer on its website.