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Letter from Justin Raines

Dearest GFBLA family, friends, and supporters:

When I accepted the baton for this amazing ensemble 10 years ago, I had no idea where this journey would take me. Having moved to LA the previous year, I had ambitions of breaking into the film industry as a composer as so many have before me. I was presented with the opportunity to direct GFBLA at a time where I was uncertain if I could devote every Tuesday evening to rehearsals for the unforeseen future. At the time, there were only 12 active members in the band, all of whom had seen so much of GFBLA’s history as well as the heartache that comes from the band’s legacy. There was a real fear back then that the ensemble would dissolve along with the last remaining members. The gravity of my decision to stay was based on one simple question: would I be able to leave this band in better condition than I found it?

Through my tenure, we vigorously recruited members through community outreach, craigslist ads, and even through Grindr and other “social” apps. At our peak, we had 75 musicians playing in our ensemble — a 525% growth from when I first stood on the podium. As more members joined GFBLA, we began tackling more difficult and engaging repertoire which challenged both our members and our audience. We moved from our old home at Hollywood Lutheran Church to First Congregational Church and eventually to our new home at the Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA). We expanded operations from a small “mom and pop” non-profit to a more corporate model to support the growth of the ensemble. I also had the honor of being a guest conductor at several Pride Bands Alliance conferences, as well as the pleasure of composing and conducting music for many of our sister groups across the country. I have had a long time to get to know many members of the band and when the pandemic hit, I knew it was important to ensure that we all remained connected to one another through music. I coordinated virtual rehearsals and virtual performance projects the make sure that the sense of GFBLA community was kept alive. I worked hard to get GFBLA back to rehearsing in person as soon as possible. Seeing everyone’s faces light up with joy after the first downbeat of the first rehearsal back was indescribable. The impact of performing the I’m Still Standing concert for me, our members, and our audience was nothing short of musical ecstasy.

Needless to say, I have done what I have set out to do with the skill sets I had. The band has grown in so many ways over the last ten years: a massive increase in membership, the ability to perform more challenging music, creating partnerships with our community, and strengthening how important music is in connecting us all. I am proud to say that GFBLA is in better condition than when I found it. I know that I have created a lasting legacy within the GFBLA community and it is with great honor that I announce I am stepping down as Artistic Director of GFBLA effective December 31, 2022. The title was never meant to be held by one person, but as a term of service to my community that needs to be passed on. Someone else deserves to have the same opportunities I had to start their own legacy with the band that I love. I don’t plan to ride off into the sunset forever, but rather ride off into the tuba section at some point and support the band as it continues to grow and flourish under another baton. It has been my pleasure to lead such an outstanding group and to know that it is in so much better shape and strength than when I found it and will be for many years to come.


Justin Raines

GFBLA Artistic Director

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Ways to Celebrate Justin:

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