Clarinetist Natalie Mullen, 18, of McArthur High School in Hollywood, said the band experience has taught her much.
“I learned a lot of things about different people and the different views of everybody,” said Mullen, whose sister is a lesbian and best friend is gay.
Last year, she said, a gay classmate jumped off a third-floor school balcony and broke both his legs. “He said he was tired of being bullied and just wanted to kill himself.”
Most school bullying involves mental, not physical abuse, Mullen said.
“Mental can get down and rip your soul apart rather than physical being bruises on your body that can heal,” she said. “These are bruises inside that can take longer to heal.”
Clarinetist Bayleigh Kilpatrick, 17, of Loxahatchee, drives more than an hour each way to attend band rehearsals in Fort Lauderdale.
“It’s worth it,” she said. “I have a lot of gay friends. I’m part of the [school gay-straight alliance]. I’m not gay myself, but I don’t feel people should be judged because of that.”
Flutist Michelle Krzyk, 17, of Coral Springs Charter School is a second-year band member who considers herself a lesbian.
“When I heard about this, I pretty much leaped at the opportunity. I’ve made some great friends here,” she said. “Last year, the concert was phenomenal. A wonderful musical experience, but I felt we spread a lot of awareness in the audience. I heard a lot of people were crying, happy tears, not sad tears.”
Trumpeter Julia Bravo, 15, of McArthur High, said the band is “a great opportunity to learn musically, and about the lesbian and gay community.
“I’m not lesbian, but I’m not the girliest person,” she said. “Since elementary [school], it’s always stood out. It’s nice to be in a place where no one criticizes you for not being girlie.”
“It’s very important to realize that we can’t keep putting people into these boxes,” flutist Beltrame said. “Any time you have any kind of art, it’s so important for everyone to realize that not everything is black and white. There’s not one answer. And music is very open to interpretation. That’s how everything in life is.”