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Remembering Rainbow City Band co-founder Jo-Ann Christen

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Christen, Seattle Civic Band, 2010 — Rainbow City Band
Christen, Seattle Civic Band, 2010 — Rainbow City Band

Seattle educator and musician Jo-Ann Christen passed away on February 22, at age 82. Her passing was followed by an outpouring of love from the communities she served with and helped build.

Christen co-founded Rainbow City Band in 1998, the first LGBTQ band in the city, which has grown impressively since its inception. The organization now includes seven ensembles that perform for thousands per year.

Christen's close friends attest to how inclusive she was, and how that quality was essential to her work. She welcomed all musicians into Rainbow City Band, no matter their background, during a time where it was very common to discriminate based on identity. People that knew Christen have stressed how much she affected the Seattle music scene, through her dedication and hard work.

Early life
Christen cut her teeth early on in her career by contributing to handful of musical projects. Before moving to Seattle, in the early '60s, she was apart of the Salvation Army Youth Band. She also played in the New Jersey Symphony and Opera Orchestras and the Festival Brass Quintet, and even backed Sammy Davis Jr. during a gig. She was also in cabaret at the Imperial Theater on Broadway. In addition to all of this, she also taught music in elementary schools in New Jersey.

Salvation Army Youth Band, 1962 — Rainbow City Band  

When she came to Seattle, she worked at Haller Lake United Methodist Church, where she served as the musical director. There she created a program in which local classical musicians would be showcased in the church performances.

In the years that followed, she became a substitute trombone player for the Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Seattle Opera. She then founded Blue Water Bass Trio. She became assistant director of the Varsity Drag Jazz Band, which specialized in '20s and '30s music.

Christen signed photo, Festival Brass, 1968 — Rainbow City Band  

Other organizations and mentorship
Christen was very hard-working, taking on a lot through her career. In addition to Rainbow City Band, Christen founded a slew of other musical groups for amateur musicians in the city. These include the Seattle Civic Band, Purple Passion Swing Band, and Rain City's Women's Chorus. She also assumed command of preexisiting Rain City Symphony and Boeing Employees Concert Band.

In tandem with her musicianship and her ability to create new musical worlds through community, Christen was known by many a mentor. She used her skills to educate, and passed on her abilities and knowledge to young musicians. All of this work was done in order to strengthen them and the music scene at large.

Rest in peace
Jo-Ann Christen was a fixture of a sprawling community that she in many ways helped cultivate. Every year of her professional career was dedicated to honing her craft and sharing her talents with Seattle and the world. In addition to this, though, she spent her time on earth founding and leading countless musical projects that strengthened and expanded the community into the scene that it is today. She positively affected this city and the musicians within it, indubitably.