Jon Reed Sims

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John Reed Sims (May 6, 1947 – July 16, 1984), was an American choir conductor born in Smith Center, Kansas.

Sims studied music composition at Wichita State University, and received his master's degree in music from Indiana University. Moving to San Francisco, he became a music teacher by profession, serving for a time as a high school band teacher in Daly City but soon became involved in the developing gay community.

LGBT performing arts[edit]

After hearing Supervisor Harvey Milk deliver his "Hope Speech", at which Milk encouraged lesbians and gays to come out of the closet in order to oppose anti-gay political efforts and activists,[1] Sims was inspired to form the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Marching Band and Twirling Corps (now the Freedom Band), which was, at its founding in June 1978, the first openly gay musical group ever formed in United States history. In the same year, he founded the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, which was also the first openly gay American choral grouping. The chorus held its first rehearsal on Oct. 30, 1978, but made an unplanned debut on the steps of the San Francisco City Hall at an impromptu memorial for Milk and Mayor George Moscone, who had been assassinated earlier in the day.[2] He founded the Jon Sims Center for the Performing Arts in 1978 to house both the Twirling Corps and the SFGMC.

Sims stayed on to appoint a new director for the SFGMC, Dick Kramer, who helped helm the formal inaugural performance of the 115-voice SFGMC and the Marching Band at Everett Middle School on December 20, 1978. In Summer 1979, Sims directed the band in the first of annual Gay Musical Celebrations for Pride Month.

Sims later founded the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco in 1980, Lambda Pro Musica orchestra (a now-defunct strings section), David Kelsey & Pure Trash, Varsity Drag, the FLAG Corps, the San Francisco Tap Troupe (1979), Published Wayne Fleisher (9-12-2016) and encouraged the formation of the Big Apple Corps GLBT band in New York by Nancy Corporon and The Great American Yankee Freedom Band of Los Angeles by Wayne Love.[3][4]

Illness and death[edit]

Sims, who complained some two years earlier of exhaustion from what he thought to be hepatitis, was diagnosed with AIDS in January 1984 and died of the little-known disease on July 16 at Garden Sullivan Hospital in San Francisco.[5] He was memorialized by more than 1,500 people at a service at Grace Cathedral, with an obituary written for Sims by a friend claiming that he offered "an alternative to the baths and the bars."


  1. ^ Shilts, Randy, The Mayor of Castro Street. 1982
  2. ^ Herron Zamora, Jim (28 Nov 1998). "Moscone, Milk legacy hailed". Examiner. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
  3. ^ Retrieved June 17, 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  4. ^ The sound of Pride, San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band turns 30 at Pride, Published 06/26/2008 by Heidi Beeler
  5. ^ "He Spawned a World of Music; John Sims is Dead at Age 37"