I loved Honk from the start and wanted to be a part of it. Actually marched twice with the Ladies Accordion Orchestra as my drag alter-ego, Kielbasia. It wasn’t quite the right fit, so when I heard about School of Honk, I joined right away. First with accordion, then melodica, then Clarinet. Currently re-learning Trumpet after 30 years – I played in middle school band. I love the welcoming feel, the way we support and help each other out, and the acceptance! Play two notes? Great! Next week play four. Learn a new instrument. Help a newbie. Honk Honk!
My parents signed me up for piano lessons in Kindergarten, and I owe everything that followed to them. I studied with three piano teachers over ten years, including a scary one who chewed on peppercorns and kept pet peacocks.
To make a long story short, my primary instrument is now accordion, which I play as part of my street show, Sophie’s Smokin’ Squeezebox. Busking enabled me to live a nomadic, international lifestyle for six years after college.
Although I had amazing adventures, I lacked a sense of community during that time, so at the end of 2015 I decided to move to the Boston area. While canvassing for Bernie during the primary elections in March of 2016, I heard wafting music (“We Got That Fire”) and followed it until I found the source.
I adore brass music. Especially trumpets. And so I ditched my plans (whoops) and followed the parade. I thought to myself, “I would absolutely love to do this. It’s too bad I don’t play an instrument that counts.”
Fast-forward to January 1st, 2017. It’s a new year, I have resolutions. Specifically, to be more musical and to be more social. To make some new like-minded friends. So when my friend Matt Morin (HONK clarinetist who I know as a fellow accordion player) told me that I, in fact, count as a reed instrument and invited me to HONK, I eagerly accepted.
I immediately fell in love with HONK. I love the welcoming, low-key musical environment and I love that it’s full of fun, creative people who are keen to hang out after. I find it incredibly fulfilling musically and socially. It was exactly what my life in Boston was missing, and I only wish I had joined sooner. Several weeks in, I purchased a melodica (louder than accordion).
When I’m not at HONK, I continue to perform on the streets as well as substitute teach elementary school and sing with Chorus pro Musica. Soon I will be starting grad school for a Master’s in Elementary Education, a career in which I’ll use as much music as they’ll let me.
My name is Michael (Micha for short) and I play trumpet. I’ve been playing with the School of HONK since early 2016. The School of HONK is largely responsible for helping me make music become an integral part of my life.
I found the School of HONK from another local brass band, the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band. I had tried out to be in SLSAPS and it became clear during the tryout that I was not ready to be in their band. A friend from SLSAPS suggested that I go to the School of HONK, where I could work on playing by ear and soloing.
I swallowed my pride and gave it a shot. I wish I had come to the School of HONK sooner! I found something entirely different than I expected. I found a community of lovely people who happen to play music. I have learned more about playing trumpet at the School of HONK than I ever did in public schools. I am getting more comfortable playing by myself (which still terrifies me) and being able to hear the key parts of a song. Let’s flash forward one year: I auditioned for the SLSAPS a second time and they took me on in November 2016.
I believe that there are three “secrets” that keep the School of HONK the lively group that it is. We are a group based in community, integrity, and having fun. School of HONK sees and embraces the musician in everyone. It’s as simple as that!
I come for the way it sounds.
I come to dance.
I come for the chance to delight a stranger.
I come because partying week after week with the same crowd of people is something I needed in my twenties and thirties and continue to need as I move into my forties.
I come because I think alternative modes of education, and community self-education are a good thing to explore.
I come to School of HONK every week because once I was a teenager who was very serious about learning how to play the saxophone, and he’s someone I like to remember.
I come because I think we need life, joy, and a bit of subversion on our streets.
I come because I want my three year old son to have something wild in his life.
I come because I want to get to know a lot of musicians.
I come because I’ve spent time in music scenes where most of the participants weren’t formally trained, and I think it’s a great thing.
I come because I think School of HONK makes folk music and future music and we need both.
I come because the art I’ve made has always been about blurring the lines between audience and creator.
I come because it’s literally the best way I know of to meet new people, and I want a life where I meet lots of new people.
I come because I need to experience loud music and be around people but don’t like to stay up late.
I come to combat the increasingly asynchronous nature of modern life.
I come because for years my wife (Crissy, percussion) and I have dreamed of starting a daytime techno dance party. School of HONK is a big step in the right direction.
I come because I’ve never seen anything like it.
I come because it feels like home.
From an early age, music has been playing in my life, a continuous soundtrack, from Hair and Sergeant Pepper on the Victrola as a boy in New York City, to concerts at the Palladium and Bottom Line as a teenager, to cassettes in rusted cars on Mass Pike road trips, but I was always on the outside looking in, in the audience facing the stage, on the sidewalk saluting the parade….
Until School of HONK. School of HONK finally offered me a chance to be in the parade- which turns out to be whole lot more fun than watching the parade. But not only a chance to be in a parade, nor just a chance to bang on a drum and learn a whole new vocabulary of rhythm. It also offered me a chance to be liberated from my natural inhibitions. To connect with a joyful, inclusive, accepting community. To revel and marvel as Kevin, Maggie, and Shaunalynn summon us to the sound in their heads. It’s called the School of HONK, but it could just as easily be called the Church of HONK for the feeling of communion and love that circulates when we gather in the round. As Kevin said at HONK! Fest 2015 when I was still on the outside looking in, if more people could do this, the world would be a much kinder, gentler, more peaceful place. Amen!
I’ve dreamed of being a drummer ever since I was 17 when I was still living in the land of eternal cold, vodka, and bears. However, having no prior musical training (except for a few piano lessons) and not knowing where to begin (do they even have drum lessons in Siberia? Of course, they do, but I did not feel brave enough to try), I had to put it on a shelf and just keep on dreaming for a while – exactly 10 years. So one decade and one move across the world later, a miracle happened – I saw School of HONK perform at Somerville Porchfest 2015, and that’s how it all began. A week later, I came to take pictures of the band, two weeks later I started playing auxiliary percussion, three weeks later I was playing a snare drum! Just like that, School of HONK made my dream come true. It’s been a year and a half now and I can’t imagine living my life without it. I have learned so much about music, met so many amazing people, and made some really great friends. Thanks to the musical instruction and support I have received at School of HONK, I got comfortable enough to perform with other bands as well, such as Bread and Puppet Circus Band, JP Honk Band, and Extraordinary Rendition Band. Currently, I play with JP Honk Band which is just as warm and welcoming, and of course my Sundays are dedicated to School of HONK, come hell or high water. School of HONK is like one giant musical-dancing-performing-parading-polka-dotted family, so every Sunday I feel like coming home.
Photo credit: Kirk Israel
I came to the school via my friend Big D. We had been playing music together for a few months when he told me about something amazing: the School of HONK. He was absolutely correct about the amazing part. My musical background was diverse but usually tied down to electricity: electric guitars, electric bass, keyboards, and music generated using programming languages on computers. Fortunately, I was able to start playing percussion with the School which was not only a new instrument for me but also a new section. My lucky star must have been shining on me that day, because playing percussion has brought so much happiness into my life. I keep coming back because there is nothing at all like playing funky New Orleans-style music with 40-90 other enthusiasts. And also, I just love parading around making a racket with my bass drum. Thank you School of HONK!
I co-lead the School of HONK Dance Troupe, and one of the things I love most about SoH is that there is space for you here, even if (or maybe especially if) you’ve ever felt that dance or music “isn’t for me”. As for me, I always I loved to sing, but I didn’t know how to play an instrument or read music, so I thought I wasn’t allowed to think of myself as musical. Similarly, I always liked to move, but I “didn’t dance” (and thought I couldn’t dance) until I was about 20.
Up until then, I thought that dancing was one of those “you have it or you don’t” kind of things, and that I didn’t have it. In retrospect, all my peers who I thought “had it” took dance lessons after school or practiced on their own. Isn’t it amazing to discover that just about everything in life is actually a learnable skill rather than an innate gift?
I went to school for theater and I got to take a lot of movement classes, which made me more aware of my body, how it moves, and how to “play” it. This led me to discover that I LOVED dancing—which I think is really just a mildly intimidating word for “moving your body in relationship to a rhythm”. I spent a semester studying classical Indian dance-theater in southern India, and when I got back, I discovered international and American folk dances, and later got into things like swing/blues, tango, etc. I also work in professional theater, especially movement-based styles like puppetry, dance-theater, clowning, etc., and my idea of what counts as “dance” is pretty broad.
At this point in my life, I’m pretty darn passionate about the belief that dancing and music are for EVERYONE, and I love facilitating dance experiences at School of HONK. I love that we have a mixture of kids and adults, at all ability levels, and yet we can all come together and dance joyously, in unity with each other and with the music!
I have loved HONK music since the first HONK! Fest I went to years ago. I felt a little conspicuous singing along and dancing, though it seemed clear that that should be the response to music sooooo lively and danceable and people wearing such wild and wonderful outfits.
At the end of the summer of 2015, I was at a benefit where some HONK folks came to play. As we gathered around food afterwards, I said that I’d consider playing the sax again if I could find one. Before I said that, I didn’t know I was even thinking that. And the response was, “we have a sax for you! just come on Sunday!” Such a clear leading could not be refused, so I came that Sunday and indeed I honked. I hadn’t played for about forty five years. The invitation came at a time when I was recovering from a period of mourning. It was as if my departed friend said, “look! I found some fun for you!”
School of HONK has a way of just pulling you in. Such open generous people create an energy field with music that changes the world. How could you not want to join?
Oh, and now I get to wear an outfit, too, and dance around and also play. S O M U C H F U N.
I love School of HONK! It has brought the joy of music back into my life after a long hiatus, introduced me to an amazing community of interesting, unusual, funny, crazy, supportive, and lovely people, and at times saved my sanity. I sometimes call it music therapy.
My music education began inauspiciously in the 4th grade trying to learn clarinet through group instruction. It was not a good experience. I quit after a year.
When I was 13 I picked up an old guitar that was laying around the house, learned to play it by watching a PBS TV series that taught folk guitar, and then took lessons for about a year. The most important thing I learned from my first teacher was that you could figure out the chords to a song just by listening to the record. My next teacher was a student of Stefan Grossman, a member of the 60s Greenwich Village folk scene who was also a musicologist interested in delta blues. This is how I was introduced to the finger style blues of my first guitar hero, Mississippi John Hurt.
When I was in high school I started singing in a rock and roll band. We had a ton of fun hanging out together and making music (and getting paid for it, which sure beat baby-sitting 🙂 ). We started out as a cover band but with members heading off to college, we reformed as a new group called Theatre doing original material. We were together for about one year playing some NYC gigs, the highlight of which was playing as the opening act for Sea Train at the Cafe Au GoGo in Greenwich Village. That was pretty exciting for a bunch of teenagers.
There were a few more bands that came and went but I began to have doubts about surviving the rock and roll lifestyle and instead started a career in the tech industry, got married, and had a family, all the while wondering how I would ever get music back into my life. I performed at the occasional coffee house but something was missing.
Then my friend Charlo told me about the School of HONK. I was so ready to learn a new instrument and a whole new style of music. I showed up at an early SOH session, was handed an alto sax and showed a few notes, and embouchure pointers, and although my early efforts triggered uncomfortable flashbacks to the noises that came from my 4th grade clarinet, I persevered. I love that we learn by ear, that we perform every week, and that the SOH community supports you no matter what your aspirations are or where you are on your musical journey. It’s also great to have a cadre of buddies who break into dance at the drop of a hat!