Source: Minnesota Freedom Band
Source: Minnesota Freedom Band

Ensemble director Eric Dollerschell-Petry talks about the Minnesota Freedom Band, a place for LGBT musicians. A non-profit community concert band comprised of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied volunteers, the band has a long history of performing at both LGBT events and hosting performances in the broader community.

The Minnesota Freedom Band is a Twin Cities-based, non-profit community band comprised of musicians affirming as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and straight ally.  Since 1982, we have provided concerts and other performances for Park House, Rainbow Family Conference, TC Pride, Duluth-Superior Pride, Southwest Minnesota Pride (Mankato), Target Holidazzle parade, MAP Oscar Night, and other events.

Apart from the large concert band, the organization has reformed and packaged two small ensembles for the past three years. The Take Five Big Band and the Indigo Notes Jazz Combo are two alternate performing groups that are making their way though the music and art scene in the Twin Cities. Take Five Big Band gets its name from the signature piece by Dave Brubeck. Indigo Notes’ name derives from Duke Ellington’s lush ballad “Mood Indigo.” Both ensembles perform the signature works at least once a year.

As director of the ensemble, we are a tie-knit group that is comprised of varying levels of musicians. Take Five Big Band is composed of a typical rhythm section, five saxophones (2 altos, 2 tenors, and a baritone), 6 trumpets, and 4-5 trombones.  What separates us from other big bands is that instrumentation of the group and the music I select.

For me, I wanted Take Five to advocate, and facilitate the continuation of jazz as a genre of music as well as raising awareness of jazz education through our performances. How do I do that? Take Five has a flutist and an euphonium in the ranks that are non-traditional “jazz” instruments. I select music from varying styles within jazz such as Blues, Swing, Bebop, Hard Bop, West Coast, Fusion, Latin, and Afro-Cuban. I am very big advocate to reintroduce the public to timeless classics from the big band era from “Sing, Sing, Sing” to “One O’clock Jump; “On Green Dolphin Street” to “My Funny Valentine.”

If you sit in on a rehearsal, I direct the charts for upcoming gigs, however I teach the fellow musicians how to improvisation (improv for short), how to really listen to what they are playing, and to make magic come through their sound. Jazz can be a hard genre of music to listen too because improv is so deeply involved with a person’s “feeling” in the piece, music theory, and spontaneity.

The Indigo Notes is a smaller 4-7 piece small jazz ensemble with the primary focus on improvisation and create new “works/interpretations” of the “head” chart. Did you know that 60-70% of all jazz music recorded was created in jazz combos jammin’ after hours? From Dixieland to Jazz-rock, there really is not a style of music a combo could not perform…. Minus a polka here or there.

I am really proud of what these two groups has accomplished in a short amount of time. We are currently looking for gigs and events to perform at. Not only to support the community, but to get us out and provide quality music for the audience.

Visit the Minnesota Freedom Band website or follow them on Facebook.

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