Philadelphia Freedom Band prepares for inaugural parade performance

    Members of the Philadelphia Freedom Band are tuning up for their big moment in the national spotlight with President Barack Obama next week.  

    “He was the only mainstream Presidential candidate that acknowledged my humanity as a gay person,” said percussionist Emily Kesselman of President Obama.

    Kesselman and 10 other band members will join about 200 musicians with the Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA) to march in the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C. on Monday. 

    This week, NewsWorks caught up with the band during practice at the Arch Street United Methodist Church. 

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    Philadelphia Freedom Band President and baritone saxophonist Patti Calandra said that members who were interested in participating in the march submitted applications last year to the LGBA, who then submitted a bid to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

    “When we decided we wanted to do it, we didn’t know for sure who we’d be marching for,” said Calandra, “so we all rocked the vote to make sure that we were marching for who we’d prefer to march for.”

    “We’re playing some Lady Gaga, some Pitbull and Ne-Yo. We’re playing West Side Story,” said trumpet player Chris Templeton who is excited but says he’ll probably be shaking before the parade. Templeton found a musical home with the Philadelphia Freedom Band a year ago and said the members are dedicated participants even though they are volunteers.

    Templeton and the other band members will be meeting with the LGBA inaugural band on Friday in Baltimore to rehearse before heading to D.C. on Monday. Participating musicians from around the country are responsible for their own travel and lodging.

    Calandra anticipates a lot of rehearsals in the upcoming weekend which include learning how to march next to people they just met.

    “We want to be ready to make the President proud.”

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