In the summer of 2000, the city of Cincinnati, Ohio held the first GLBT Pride parade after a 6-year break. The crowd was about 2,000 people. After the parade, Paula Ison (of the Pride Committee) reflected of the small turnout, and felt that something was missing, namely the music of a marching band.
For 2001 Paula researched various bands beginning with high school bands. She then discovered the website of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA), and was surprised that such a group existed. She contacted the bands that were geographically nearest. Chicago’s Lakeside Pride Freedom Band agreed to travel to Cincinnati.
Separately, Maryhelen Hibben (QCRB cofounder and president) heard that a marching band was expected to perform at the Cincinnati parade. Having been a founding member of Boston’s GLBT Band in 1985, and at various LGBA events until 1994. She missed being in a gay marching band. She contacted the Cincinnati Pride committee, and the Lakeside Pride Freedom Band. She went to Chicago for one rehearsal and was the only local person to perform with the Chicago band in the Cincinnati 2001 Pride Parade.
By 2001, the crowd had doubled to 4,000 spectators, and the number of contingents also doubled. Lakeside Pride Freedom Band and Flag Corps brought about 45 people. The marching band energized the parade with several tunes including “We are Family” and a performance by the flag corps. The band received enthusiastic response all along the parade route and when entering the “gay”borhood (Northside) and festival park. The crowds cheered wildly when the band marched by.
After this inspirational reception, Paula and Maryhelen met and spent the fall of 2001 planning to form a GLBT marching band in Cincinnati. Initial publicity was sent out. Names were gathered. A band name was created: the Queen City Rainbow Band.
In December a conductor contacted the Cincinnati Pride Committee saying he would like to form a GLBT band for the 2002 parade. He was put in contact with Maryhelen and Paula. That first conductor was David Shaffer. He is the director of Miami University’s Marching Band (Oxford, Ohio) and a professional music arranger.
The first rehearsal was January 27, 2002 with five musicians and two flag twirlers. Two of those founding members are still part of the QCRB, Arnie Witt and Fred Martens.
We were granted Band-in-Formation status by Lesbian and Gay Bands of America on March 9, 2002, and full band status in 2003. We have also become a 501(3)(c) non-profit corporation. As of 2008, we have 35 musicians, a marching band, concert band, and jazz ensemble.
The QCRB originally rehearsed at a community center belonging to the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, in the neighborhood of Clifton. When that space was no longer available, after an extended search we moved our rehearsals to Grace Episcopal Church, in the neighborhood of College Hill. Pride season outdoor rehearsals are located in a central public park, Burnett Woods, in Clifton.
The first performance was June 8 and 9th, 2002 with about 12 local musicians marching with two busses of band members from Chicago’s Lakeside Pride Freedom Band. The QCRB is eternally grateful to Chicago for wearing our uniforms, marching alongside us, and giving our new band such a fantastic start.
After two years of attempts, strong member interest did occur in the fall of 2006 to create the Rainbow Jazz Ensemble. This is a traditional jazz ensemble of about 16 musicians. The founding conductor was Jim Maschinot with the support of organizer Fred Martens. The jazz ensemble continues to grow and perform at local clubs and for worthy benefits (like King’s Island Pride Night) and the annual Mardi Gras benefit concert. The ensemble performs big band standards, swing music, gospel rock, and pop music with jazz renditions.
Our current jazz ensemble and concert band director is Tom Mitchell. A veteran music educator and accomplished musician, Tom started conducting the jazz band in 2007, and in 2008 directed the concert band as well. He has done work on the national GLBT level by directing a significant portion of the LGBA Gay Honors Band, held in Cleveland during February 2007.
The concert band has been growing over the years. Since our inception, we performed band concerts (a holiday winter concert for the community of Northside, the Kiwanas Memorial Day Ceremony, and short concerts at pride festivals and community events).
A hallmark concert band performance occurred on December 22, 2007. Grace Episcopal Church hosted a QCRB concert before their annual Christmas dinner tradition. Called the “Grace Church Christmas Soirée”, the concert band and jazz ensemble performed a concert in the church sanctuary. Wonderful acoustics and stunning stone gothic architecture created a splendid venue. Our concert was followed by a candle-light 4-course dinner, hosted by Grace church.
In December 2009, band president Jill Karner organized a Holiday Dinner Concert, where the audience enjoyed a QCRB prepared dinner as the band entertained with a holiday concert. This concert was sold out.
An important part of any volunteer group, our fund raising continues to be a big part of our work. We have had successful “Bar Raids” where we perform in multiple bars/clubs in one evening. A stained glass window was created by a member and raffled. A murder mystery in a historic home, with dinner, costumed Victorian actors, and prizes was a huge success. Yard Sales have been held and an annual Wine Tasting proves to be fun and popular. Our founding member, Paula Ison, continues to amaze us by soliciting large individual donations. Our Jazz Ensemble performances are now turning into great fundraisers, too.
Band trips have always been a fun part of music. We are fortunate to have many regional opportunities for varied-length trips, such as Lexington KY, Dayton OH, Columbus OH, Cleveland OH. Our longest overnight trip was to Chicago IL, performing for 400,000 spectators. Accommodations, transportation, site-seeing and fund raising for this trip were organized by one band member, Joe Wallace.
Five members of Cincinnati’s Queen City Rainbow Band (QCRB) performed in President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural parade in Washington, DC on January 29, 2009. This is the first time in history that a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and allies group of any kind has been chosen to march in a Presidential Inaugural Parade. Click here to read the Cincinnati Enquirerarticle.
Our Name and Logo
The band name and logo may need some explanation to non-locals. Regarding our name, Cincinnati received the nickname “The Queen City of the West” from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem about Cincinnati, Catawba Wine, in 1854.
The central image in our logo is of the Tyler-Davidson Fountain, a prominent Cincinnati landmark in our downtown. This 43-foot fountain is the oldest downtown sculpture and has become the best known and loved symbol of Cincinnati. Water streams from the out-stretched hands of the 9-foot tall female figure representing the Genius of Water, while below her, four adult figures dramatize the life-sustaining uses of water.