Chrysanthemum Ragtime Band, based in San Francisco, consisted of 10 musicians drawn together because of a shared enthusiasm
for ragtime, a predecessor of jazz. It was led by Bruce Vermezen. The Chrysanthemum Ragtime Band collection includes administrative
documents, correspondences, photographs, music sheets, periodicals, and reel-to-reel tapes.
The Chrysanthemum Ragtime Band was begun in August of 1978 to play for fundraisers to defeat that year’s infamous Proposition
6, the measure to legalize firing of public school teachers for being lesbian or gay. Fundraising organizations often needed
groups smaller than the Gay Freedom Day Marching Band, at that time the only openly gay musical organization in the community,
to entertain, so Marching Band director Jon Sims brainstormed with others to bring some into existence. The Chrysanthemum
Ragtime Band was a “small theatre orchestra”, an ensemble that was the standard for theatre and dance work around the turn
of the century. The instruments include two violins, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, cornet, trombone, tuba, and piano. They
played American popular music from 1890 to 1920 with special emphasis on rags, but including marches, waltzes, polkas, intermezzos,
Broadway and vaudeville songs, sentimental ballads, and once in a while even a redowa or a polonaise. Besides numerous Bay
Area venues, the Chrysanthemum Ragtime Band performed at jazz and ragtime festivals in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento,
Petaluma, and Sedalia, and Missouri. They played benefits for the Gay Games (when they were still the Gay Olympics), the Names
Project and other AIDS organizations, Tom Ammiano, and the National Lawyers Guild’s gay rights project. They were on the cover
of the Advocate in 1981.