Nothing evokes images of Americana quite like bands, particularly marching bands which today are perhaps most visible as the featured entertainment for high school and university football games. Their participation in parades, in addition to providing music for civic and military functions, make it almost impossible to imagine a patriotic event without a band. Yet something queer attends bands.
While athletics and war continue to be regarded as mainly masculine activities, music in the US has been tainted by femininity for around 150 years. Bands, so it seems, are the only reliable stronghold for hetero-masculine musical men, evidenced by uniforms, rigid order, and strict discipline. Unader the facade of sameness, however, queer lives may flourish, as this uniformity provides cover for women in pants, men on their toes.
In Meredith Willson's musical, The Music Man, traveling salesman Harold Hill, queerly singing and dancing, asserts hetero-masculinity by wooing local piano teacher and librarian, Marian Paroo, pragmatically diverting her attention from his musical and financial scam. But this time he seemingly loses his heart. Singing to him that she had never noticed bells, birds, music, roses, and love before his arrival, they embrace and kiss. All is implied, but never sung or spoken, about hetero-marriage, and instead of bolting when his con is discovered, he lingers until he is apprehended. The excitement and joy that Harold brings, though, are not about him as suitor to Marian. They are produced by his fantasy: the band he promises the town and her; the band he twice conjures out of nothing; the band that transmogrifies at the end into an impossible 76 trombones and 110 cornets by virtue of Harold's leaving Marian, the only way the fantasy may be maintained. This band that would seem to guarantee Harold's hetero-masculinity nevertheless requires him to disappear without 'the girl'; indeed he will leave at her insistence, even as she takes his arm, marching with him down the street literally out of step and soon out of frame. Thanking Harold for his gifts to her while repeatedly urging him to depart without her, Marian returns the music man to the queer(ly) American(a) band fraternity.
For a detailed analysis, see "'I Always Think There's a Band, Kid': Queer Music Education Lost." Bulletin of the Council on Research in Music Education