The University of Michigan marching band celebrated the school's LGBTQ+ students, staff, and supporters on Saturday with a homecoming halftime show dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the university’s Spectrum Center — a space at the school that supports, advocates, and educates around LGBTQ+ topics.
Music from the performance included hits from Diana Ross, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Kim Petras, Andrew Gold, Sister Sledge, and Cyndi Lauper.
John Pasquale, a professor of conducting and the director of the university’s marching band, told The Advocate that he wanted to make a public statement in support of his students and in support of the Spectrum Center.
“I was proud to do it,” Pasquale said. “We just, as a community, came together and there it is.”
He said the show took about seven to eight months to plan and coordinate.
“The point we were trying to make is that love is love. And love wins,” Pasquale explained. The concept was also the starting point for him and his team for the rest of the show. From there, they expanded the concept into the music, marching formations, and visuals. Pasquale said that his team also went to the band's LGBTQ+ students and asked what songs they resonated with and which were representative of their experiences.
“We are unequivocally supportive of our students and [we] just wanted to make as public of a statement in that regard as possible, and we put the show in the biggest performance venue in the world that day,” Pasquale said. “So, I think it was a pretty strong statement.”
Rachel Zhang, a clarinet player in the marching band who assisted in developing merchandise around the show, said she hopes that people who watched the show see that even at a large university there’s a significant number of people that advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Having the band be so willing to put forth the halftime show like this hopefully is a strong message of hope and love and support...,” Zhang, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, said.
Since Saturday, Zhang said she’s had professors and students compliment the band and the show. “At least from my perspective, it’s been very nice and positive,” she told The Advocate.
“This was our week, this was the week for the LGBTQ+ community to feel seen and to feel valued and respected. And it was a really beautiful thing to see.”