The Desert Winds Freedom Band.

The Desert Winds Freedom Band—the area’s LGBT-friendly concert band—is known for its fantastic Christmas shows. See for yourself when the band performs Joy: A Holiday Celebration at 2 p.m., this Sunday, Dec. 7, at Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs.

During a recent interview, founder Gary Moline discussed the beginnings of the Desert Winds Freedom Band.

“We started out as a community band in 2001, as a gay-friendly group,” Moline said. “We started out as a concert band—symphonic winds, which is like an orchestra without strings.” 

Under artistic director Dean McDowell, the group performs various programs throughout the year.

“We put on four major concerts a year; we have usually a holiday concert, a spring concert, and a summer concert at the Rancho Mirage Library,” Moline said. “The only marching we do is once a year, for the Pride Parade. We invite other members from other bands in the area to come and march with us.”

The group now also includes a jazz-band offshoot.

“The jazz band was added about four or five years ago,” Moline said. “It had its first major concert this year in October all by itself, whereas before, the jazz band would have been in the middle of a concert-band performance.”

The group consists of a variety of musicians, including a few retired people who hadn’t played their instruments since graduating from high school or college. Moline estimated the band includes 65 to 70 members during the peak of the season.

As for the holiday program, the band is focusing on fun and moving classics.

“The theme is Joy A Holiday Celebration, and many of the pieces that Dean picked out are based on joy or bells. It’s just kind of a fun and popular show, and also more of a classical nature. One piece we’re doing is ‘Russian Christmas.’ It’s the longest piece in the program and also a very moving piece. We also won’t have any vocalists this year, so it’s different than what we’ve done in the past.”

There’s also going to be a performance with Temple Isaiah’s pipe organ and a very special master of ceremonies.

“We’re also going to have an emcee, Brian Wanzek, whose alter ego is Bella da Ball. It’s going to be a nice afternoon.”

In related news, also see: The Sounds of the Holidays: Palm Springs’ Two Gay Men’s Choruses Offer Different Concert Experiences.

Desert Winds Freedom Band will perform at 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7 at Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $30. For more information, visit

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Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...