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!