History + Milestones

BARS continues to redefine the orchestra experience for audiences and members alike though music’s potential for education and personal enrichment.


  • October 21, 2007 5 Bay Area musicians meet to form a new type of LGBTQ ensemble: “We are happy with ‘Bay Area Rainbow Symphony’ as an organization name.”
  • March 5, 2008 First rehearsal at Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. 27 musicians attend.
  • June 8, 2008 Premier concert, part of the Old First Concerts series. Despite having only 8 violins, 3 violas, 5 cellos, and 2 double bases in an ensemble of 39, over 200 audience members attend.
  • June 16, 2008 Rehearsals begin for second concert. Over 60 musicians attend.
  • September 6, 2008 First LGBTQ orchestra elected into the Lesbian and Gay Band Association.
  • September 13, 2008 First performance at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Concert sells out.
  • January 2009 Received 501(c)3 non-profit status. BARS musicians march in the first LGBTQ contingent of the presidential inauguration parade with the Lesbian and Gay Band Association.
  • June 2009 Daniel Canosa takes the baton as first Artistic Director.
  • November 2009 Drum Drive fundraising campaign launched for acquisition of timpani and other percussion equipment.
  • March 2010 BARS first collaboration with San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.
  • March 2011 In just 1.5 years, BARS raises funds and purchases timpani. Jessica Bejarano is named BARS first assistant condcutor.
  • April 2011 Founder and Executive Director Ian Harwood is named a League of American Orchestras Management Fellow.
  • May 2011 BARS introduces Lauren Brown as it’s first Front of House Manager.
  • December 2011 Richard Horan, BARS’s President, becomes Executive Director.
  • June 2012 BARS announces a Guest Conductor season where four finalist candidates audition to be BARS next Music Director.
  • August 2012 Dawn Harms is appointed Music Director of BARS.
  • December 2012 BARS makes it debut at Davies Symphony Hall in collaboration with the SF Gay Men’s Chorus.
  • June 2013 BARS collaborates with the SF Gay Men’s Chorus in the world premier of Andrew Lippa’s I Am Harvey Milk at the Nourse Theater.
  • November 2014 Renown conductor Michael Morgan makes his first guest conducting appearance with BARS.
  • June 2015 BARS performs its first all-female composer concert featuring internationally acclaimed soloist Sara Davis Buechner.
  • April 2016 BARS performs “Tales of Our City” at Davies Symphony Hall with SF Gay Men’s Chorus and Armistead Maupin.
  • June 2016 BARS performs a free benefit concert at the SF Conservatory of Music in Memory of the Orlando Victims
  • November 2016 Alasdair Neale makes his first guest conducting appearance with BARS.
  • March 2017 BARS makes it debut at Herbst Theatre with the world’s most famous double bass soloist, Gary Karr.
  • September 2017BARS members perform in a benefit for World Symphony For Peace along with Morris Hayes, keyboardist and Music Director for Prince, and film Director Craig Rice.
  • December 2017 BARS makes it debut at Wilsey Center’s Taube Atrium Theater with piano soloist Roger Woodward.
  • March 2018 BARS celebrates its 10th anniversary in a concert featuring opera diva Patrica Racette. Part of the proceeds benefit The Trevor Project.

    Link to History of Pieces Performed by BARS