Desert Overture

Local LGBT wind symphony redefines the orchestra concert experience

Photos by Tina Dickson Photography.

By Tiffany Hopkins, October 2015 Issue.

In the high-definition digital age we live in, most of what we consume involves downloading, streaming or sharing.

From sports and movies to games and music, nearly all forms of entertainment are conveniently located right at our fingertips. Except for the live experience.

After a sneak peek at Desert Overture’s plans for the 2015-2016 season, it’s safe to say they’re on a mission to remind audiences why live music still beats digital downloads.

As the Valley’s only LGBT and ally wind symphony, Desert Overture offers a fresh take on the world of orchestra, with its uncommon blend of concert pieces and popular pop tunes.

“The way we produce our shows is movie-like,” said Scott Helms, Desert Overture’s artistic director. “We have live dancers and it’s all very visual.”

According to Helms, guests can expect a variety of different music genres, including today’s biggest hits and songs they know.

“It’s just really good entertainment,” he said, adding that they do not play a “typical orchestra concert.”

The band’s goal is to not only bring entertainment, but to educate the community by having purpose to their shows. Many of the shows are related to LGBT current issues, for example, its previous programs was dedicated to the U.S. military’s repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

In the shows like these, Helms said, the band incorporates narrations between songs, painting a picture for the audience and telling a story the audience can feel.

DesOvert_Support1In addition to celebrating and educating the local LGBT community, Desert Overture also provides LGBT musicians a safe and supportive platform to play.

“A huge part of our mission to provide a venue for LGBT musicians to come together and create great music,” said Danita Cuker, Desert Overture president.

In other shows the band is known for incorporating games like “Name that Tune” and “The Price is Right,” allowing the audience to be involved. Additionally, the concerts feature raffles, costume contests and invitations to get up and dance.

In the past the band has dressed up as characters from The Addam’s Family and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“We have the coolest concerts, they’re just so much fun and we can see that everyone has a great time,” Cuker said.

The band thrives as a big family, practicing together, performing together and supporting each other.

Band member Daniel Lopez started playing with Desert Overture in 2008 and said he’s met some of his best friends through this experience.

“When I first started, it was like heaven. I was like a kid in a candy store,” Lopez said. “This is about so much more than just an LGBT band. You can see the passion from everyone and we are all connected.”

Desert Overture strives to welcome everyone and works to make sure that every new member feels welcome. The band consists of over 50 members belonging to various age groups and demographics.

“What’s makes our band different from others is our intensified camaraderie,” Helms said, “Having been through the struggles and the celebrations of the LGBT community. We are there for each other every step of the way.”

The group also regularly gives back to the community, by partnering with local organizations. Each year, they march in the Pride Parade and play for AIDS Walk Arizona, as well as donate to Independence Plus, The Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Tumbleweed Center for Gay Youth.

Desert Overture is always welcoming new members, and invite anyone who is interested in getting back into playing music (see website for details).

DesOvert_Support2For a full 2015-2016 season schedule, see the Arts Calendar. For additional information, including audition opportunities, visit desertoverture.org.