Queer Urban Orchestra
Credit: Aleja Araujo

The Queer Urban Orchestra is an amazing example about how the arts in Manhattan are far from dead, and how they are rather thriving in this bustling city that I love so much.  I did not know about its existence up until a couple of weeks ago, when one of its members and principal second violin James Teal invited me to their first concert in 2017.  Upon my exit from the concert was where I truly realized just how important organizations like this are, not only to the world of arts but to our amazing LGBTQ community and its supporters.

Queer Urban Orchestra has been around for a better part of the decade now, founded back in 2009, with their first ever concert happening in December of that year.  Their mission, as it reads on their website, is to be a musical organization dedicated to the promotion of fine arts in the New York City metropolitan area whose membership is open to all adult musicians regardless of age, race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. QUO strives to entertain and educate members and audiences alike through performances of classical and contemporary music, promoting equality, understanding, acceptance, and respect.

The need for something like this is incredibly necessary, given how tough our community has had it over the past couple of months and to be part of an organization that thrives on inclusion in such a beautiful way, both musically and as human beings, is quite incredible.

Last weekend, I took my friend to their concert called “Our City, Our Home… QUO Celebrates NYC”.  It took place at The Church of the Holy Apostles on 9th Avenue between 29th and 28th Street.  This was a church I have walked by a number of times but had no idea about how it looked from the inside.  It was quite breathtaking to see just how stunning and lit up the location truthfully is, and I knew that we were being set up for quite the night ahead of us.

The event was conducted by Julie Desbordes, the artistic director of the Queer Urban Orchestra, and Ian Shafer, whose background includes being on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music in the Precollege divisions of Music Theory and Woodwinds as well as creating the Greater Philadelphia Honors Orchestra. Julie isn’t doing too shabby either, as her resume reads beyond impressive with guest appearances all throughout the world including Venezuela, Canada and Hong Kong just to name a few, and was featured in “Crescendo!  The Power of Music”, a documentary about El Sisterma USA by Jamie Bernstein (daughter of Leonard Bernstein).  Julie plays the trumpet, while Ian is their principle Oboist.

With an orchestra that is plush with different instruments, including Trombone, Horn, Alto Saxophone, Violin and more, the entire concert was a musical sensation that covered historical figures such from Antonio Vivaldi to Astor Piazzolla.  My favorite from the entire concert had to be their arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Echoes of Harlem”, with Joe Burgstaller on the trumpet.  This particular section was mindblowingly fantastic as Joe played his heart out with the trumpet and really got the crowd going throughout this entire set.  I am a big Duke Ellington fan, and him and the amazing orchestra did him justice with their rendition.  Overall, it was an absolutely splendid night and I look forward to what they have in store for 2017.

I definitely recommend you going to The Queer Urban Orchestra’s next performance, as it will truly be a night to remember.  We also need to support organizations like theirs, so check out their website on how you can help this amazing group out!