Members of the Philadelphia Freedom Band will march and play for a second time at the Jan. 21 inauguration, having made their first appearance at Obama’a first inauguration in 2009. This time, the group will take 14 members — a big change from the two members who participated last time.
“We were very small in 2008 and had just started up at that point,” said PFB founder and outgoing president Christopher Johansen. “We had our first performance just a couple months before the 2009 Inauguration at OutFest.”
The PFB members will be among the participants in a 224-piece band put together by the Lesbian and Gay Band Association, which will include 28 other LGBT bands.
Johansen said the participating PFB members were drawn by lottery, and the 14 selected members underwent a pre-registration process in the fall.
“They had to be members of our band, in good standing with the band, the board had to approve of their part in the band and they had to be decent players — and all of our folks are decent players,” he said.
The band members are unsure whether they will get the chance to meet President Obama because of the extensive security process they must undergo before the performance. The members of PFB will arrive in Baltimore two days before the inauguration and, the day of, will be transported to the Pentagon — one of the first of many trips for security checks.
Although official rehearsals have not started yet, sound files and sheet music were uploaded to the LGBA website for participants to download and listen to in preparation.
“They will be expected to play efficiently by the time they arrive,” Johansen said.
During the official rehearsals, band members will learn marching techniques to make sure lines are straight and performers are in step with the music and each other.
Music selections include “Tonight” from “West Side Story,” “Give Me Everything (Tonight)” by Pitbull, Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” and a hybrid of “Battle Hymn Republic” and “Simple Gifts.”
Johansen said the inclusion of LGBT organizations at the president’s inauguration represents a boon for the LGBT community and for the city of Philadelphia.
“It is a celebration for all Americans, finally. America is proud to display its citizens before the world and those citizens included are LGBT,” he said. “We were the first openly LGBT group to perform at the Independence Parade in Philadelphia — this is about our freedom too.”
For more information on the Philadelphia Freedom Band, visit www.philadelphiafreedomband.com.