GO Proudly Presents: 100 Women We Love, Class Of 2020

Marita Begley

Photo by Monika Nukowska.

At her first NYC Pride March in 1982, Marita Begley was poised to march with the Lesbian Feminist Liberation (LFL) when she suddenly heard “four whistles and the start of a cadence” — AKA the familiar sound of a marching band. Within weeks, she cut short her tenure with the LFL and instead joined the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps, where she’s been ever since. Begley rose through the ranks to her current position as marching director, which she has held for the past 16 years concurrently with drum major. Her leadership has brought about a growth for both the band and for its budget; she’s helped increase corporate sponsorship and the donor base, and quadrupled the size of the band from a more modest ensemble of 30-40 to the current 138-musician, 21-color guard corps. Begley, who boasts of having neither a musical degree nor professional training, was also the artistic director for the Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LBGA), which marched in both of Obama’s inaugural parades. Never one to shy away from her dreams, Begley has led herself and the marching corps to new heights. “I cannot say strongly enough how important it is to believe in what you want to accomplish,” she tells GO. “My mother used to say that I could do anything I put my mind to. Not knowing any different, I believed her.” Her next goal: to get the marching corps into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They’re still waiting. “I’m not worried,” Begley says. “My mom was always right about everything.” —RK

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