When I was a teenager, my mom and my high school band director had a tiff. My mom thought I would be a teacher, but Mr. Bastien knew I’d be a musician. “There’s music in her bones!” he said. And I did love music. I played in marching band and concert band and orchestra and all-state and clarinet choir and impromptu chamber ensembles at my church. I did finger exercises and etudes and scales and played all kinds of longer pieces. I practiced every day, but I never made music.
When I was 20 years old, playing in the MIT Wind Ensemble, I was sitting in Kresge Auditorium at one of our performances. I didn’t know anyone in the audience. I was getting my music in order to perform a piece called The Isle of Man by Percy Grainger. I think he’s most well known for Children’s March, but we were playing this more obscure piece, and we’d played it a million times during rehearsal. But, when our band director lifted up his hands and we lifted up our horns, I played that song for the first time. When it ended, I couldn’t believe what had happened. For the first time in my 10 years of playing clarinet, I’d made music. Collaborative, elated, out-of-body music. And it was then I decided to stop.
I realized in that moment, with my breath gone and the last notes of the Isle of Man still hanging in the air, that I loved music because it was transcendent. Or, better said, I loved music when it was transcendent. And, if I had to dedicate another decade of focus and practice for one more such experience, it wasn’t worth it. I left school and started sprout, and for a number of years, I thought my mom had been right. And then I discovered street music. Funky bass lines, pop covers, New Orleans rhythms, irreverent volume, dancing, yelling, joy, and spectacle. I picked the clarinet up again to play with Second Line, where I also learned sousaphone, be ear and rote. Boycott grew out of jam sessions with some other girlfriends looking to kill on their horns. I joined the organizing committee for the HONK! Festival and, after years of talking and dreaming with Kevin, joined him in starting School of HONK. Ultimately, I think it’s the unraveling of a more than decade-long feud between Mr. Bastien and my mom and an expression of my deepest musical, social, and educational values.
So, why do I come to School of HONK? I come to School of HONK for music, politics, connection, and joyful noise. I come to be free and loud, seen and heard, to have quiet moments inside myself amongst the ecstatic ritual of brass music and street revelry. I come for friends and for a better world. And I come because I find it — every, single week.