Atlanta Freedom Bands

After attending the Pride parade in 1993, a man named Buzz Carr noted that the one thing missing from the parade was a marching band. On a cold December evening 15 years ago, a small group of folks met in a house of this man with a vision. The odd assortment of instruments and lack of music did not deter them as they practiced week by week. The newly named Atlanta Freedom Marching Band made its first public appearance in the Inman Park Festival Parade in the Spring of 1994. The band went on to perform in the 1994 Pride parade. Buzz’s illness was growing more severe, however, and he eventually succumbed before another Pride could come around. But, Buzz’s band played on, adding members, improving its music, increasing its repertoire, and performing in more and more locations. Soon the AFMB was the first gay and lesbian band to appear in Atlanta’s “Salute to America” Parade and the first band of its kind to perform gigs during an Olympic Games. AFMB traveled to cites across the Southeast to liven up Prides in places like Knoxville, Birmingham, Nashville, Jacksonville, and Savannah, among others. AFMB became a part of a larger network of bands, now known as the Lesbian and Gay Band Association. Our players have performed in concerts and parades in cities across the nation. AFMB also sent players to be a part of “Team Band” at Gay Games events in Amsterdam, Australia, and Chicago. AFMB members have taken part in important moments in our nation’s history, performing at the 1997 Clinton Inauguration and the 2000 Millennium March on Washington (where I was able to perform on stage with Ellen Degeneres, not to brag or anything). In recent years, AFMB expanded its mission by changing its name to Atlanta Freedom Bands and expanding its musical offerings to include a concert band along with the marching band, brass quintet, the Metrognomes and other ensembles that develop over time. AFB is now a non-profit charitable artistic entity and has it’s first paid music staff. AFB looks forward to sending members to the 2009 Obama Inauguration and the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, and presenting an exciting slate of concerts and community events. Throughout all the years, all of the growth and additional activities and connections, AFB still builds on Buzz’s dream by providing GLBT musicians (and even a few straight ones) a chance to come together in friendship to make music while providing a positive representation of Atlanta’s GLBT community whenever and wherever we perform.

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