I came to School of HONK in early 2016, fresh off a serious heartbreak, after a recent diagnosis with a chronic illness, during a years-long stretch of my life without music and dance. I was in serious need of joy and exuberance, and my friend Deidra pointed me this way.

I was hooked from the start: the warm welcome, the subversive public display of music and joy, the unconditional “no wrong notes” embrace paired with teaching and mentorship.

School of HONK has given me so much since then: a community of friends, a newfound relationship with movement and dance, the thrill of helping others learn — plus some really priceless, joy-packed musical memories and relationships I’ll always treasure.
This thing is really special. (You, reader, should probably join us.)


I was a band geek of the woodwind variety in high school – I dabble in other instruments, but am most at home with a clarinet beneath my fingers. In college, grad school, med school, and the years in between I kept my musical self alive by playing in whatever concert band, klezmer group, or synagogue band would have me. I moved to Boston in the summer of 2016 – by day (and by night!) I am a family medicine resident. A year later I stumbled upon School of HONK at HONK! Fest and immediately knew: “These are my people!” It’s not just that there are few other musical opportunities that would be amenable to my up-to-80-hr-work-week-schedule-changes-all-the-time-can’t-always-make-it-to-practice reality… It’s that coming together with folks of all ages and experiences to play & share music (for the sake of music and community and joy) and wear polka dots and dance around just MAKES MY DAY. The fact that my 3-year old niece is welcomed when she enthusiastically joins in on her one-note-recorder MAKES HER DAY and fills me with even more appreciation for the ethos of SoH. I love seeing the smiles on peoples faces when we are out on parade. I love watching folks in the audience jump in to join a dance for the first time. I leave every gathering with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.



My favorite instrument has always been the saxophone but I love almost all music. As a teenager, I confess my little white lie was to say I played saxophone, but I never had the opportunity. Thank goodness I was never challenged. Growing up on Montreal, Canada, there was a fantastic jazz club, The Rising Sun. Amongst many greats, I heard the likes of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Fast forward – many years later I finally took a beginner’s sax course at CCAE in 2012 to realize my dream of learning to play sax. I loved it but alas, after 2 short semesters, the class was cut. Lo and behold, 2 years ago I saw School of HONK parading, and Kevin encouraging the crowd – “Anyone can join, anyone can play! No such thing as a wrong note!” That was my calling, I took a huge breath, and finally, I had an opportunity to continue to play in a fun, noncompetitive environment where, if I was off (and I usually am), it was OK. That’s what I love about School of HONK, as well as the great bunch of folks who turn up every Sunday afternoon with such enthusiasm. I really do think my favorite moment of the week is that very first song at 3 pm sharp where people from all over the area, with different skill sets, different backgrounds, and different ages just gather to make and share some joyful, happy music!



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.



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!



I joined School of HONK in May 2015 when Maggie convinced me to stop talking about wanting to learn trumpet and actually give it a try. I had met many of the first mentors through the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, and I was intrigued by a community brass band with an almost nonexistent barrier to entry. I got hooked when I was empowered to play songs and take solos on an instrument I had never played right on the first day.

I am a lover of many genres from concert music to jazz. I have played amateur saxophone since childhood and work as a professional composer and software developer. You might be surprised to learn how similar composing and coding are. I would wager these threads of music woven through diverse walks of life is part of what attracts so many to our beloved little school.

I believe strongly in the value of learning to appreciate a wide selection of music. When I want to feel shivers running down my spine or experience a melancholy catharsis, I seek the orchestra or the opera. When I want to sense the palpable connection with my fellow concert-goers over a uniquely American art-form in an intimate setting, I haunt a jazz combo in a tiny club. But when I want to engage the singular sense of playfulness and energy riding an irresistible urge to move, I play in brass bands like School of HONK.

As a composer, I spend many, many hours perfecting the few minutes of music that a piece of mine comprises. I am pleased when I craft a work of inventiveness and nuance, but it can be a daunting task. Our community of players here provides a wonderful musical outlet to balance my world of theory and orchestration with a refreshing group of friends who don’t take themselves or their music too seriously.

Photo by Mike Lovett.



In 2nd grade music class I was given the choice of violin or flute. So I played a violin for 13 years and then stored it in a closet. I sang with choirs and chorus groups and went to concerts to watch others perform music. Part of me always wished I could have tried the saxophone but the band director told me I was too young for sax.

I remember the year I stumbled upon the very first HONK! festival. I danced and sang along and boy was I jealous of those musicians! They were having so much fun and entertaining so many people. That was 11 years ago.

Fast forward ten years and my husband (Matt D.) joined School of Honk with his trombone. He came home after that first week so excited that I knew I had to try this myself! It turns out it was finally time for that saxophone! With help and encouragement from everyone in the band, I started figuring out my new horn. One year later and I now play in four different groups! School of Honk has provided me a wonderful place to grow as a musician. What a gift! Where else can you join a band without knowing the first thing about your instrument?!?



Hello! I’m Nat Hefferman, the tall skinny guy who plays baritone sax. I started playing the sax in 4th grade, because I thought it was the coolest-looking instrument in the school band, and because my dad had played sax when he was in school. I started off playing alto sax, but since I was the tallest kid in my class, the gave me bigger and bigger ones as I kept growing, which is how I ended up on the baritone. I added the bassoon when I entered high school, and continued on to college as a bassoon major at Ithaca College. I took a break from music after college for a few years when I entered the working world, but decided to get back into it once I had married and settled down. I bought a cheap second-hand bassoon, and soon found myself in demand to play in numerous community bands and orchestras. I’ve attended every HONK! in Boston since the beginning in 2006, and decide I missed playing the sax so much I bought one, and joined up with the Extraordinary Rendition Band in Providence. I’ve been coming to the School of Honk since I also enjoy playing in a Honk band closer to home.
If you get a chance, ask me about my sarrusophone – a 19th Century mutant hybrid of a bassoon, saxophone, and a paper clip.

Photo by Leonardo March.



Patrick Johnson is a Somerville-based filmmaker and teacher who discovered School of Honk while developing a documentary film project. Soon after, he dusted off his saxophone (in storage for sixteen years) and started playing. Inspired by the community that was forming, he also began documenting the band’s parades and practices.

As a filmmaker, Patrick likes to tell stories about artists, musicians and alternative lifestyles and sees his craft as a way to connect with his local community. His work has screened in art galleries, film festivals and has been featured in the blog You can watch some of it here: Patrick also teaches at Wheaton College in Norton, MA as an Assistant Professor of Filmmaking.

Photo by Tom Hazeltine.