Social (musical) experiments

I usually say I hate large crowds with a mission, mobs. No matter the shared interest, once they feel and act like a mob, anything can happen. I always feel a lot of people the day after may ask things like, ‘how was I capable, what got into me’…

But there are exceptions, and it needs to have the right drive, the right model, funny enough the right and wrong people if that even exists. End of 2017 while driving around in Boston on a Sunday I was stopped at a traffic light by a large group of folks playing all sorts of instruments, sounding really great, not perfect, all ages, all genders, and all looking like they were having a blast. I asked one of them and they said School of Honk. I made a New Year decision I would join and see how it went.

My older friends might know of my musical activity more than 30 years ago, but I never really played any instrument, I was the singer in the band and while I tried to learn how to play the piano a couple of times, I never had the discipline and the dedication to get anywhere. I have rhythm, and I can keep a beat, I carry a decent voice, above all I love live music and can’t live without it, but I can’t be on stage and even call myself a musician, out of respect for those that are and have dedicated their lives to being musicians.

School of Honk is a non-profit that allows anyone to join and participate in what I consider a fantastic social musical experience, where you can add value just by participating and having fun. You arrive, you wonder around and choose an instrument close to your comfort zone, or something you always dreamed you could play, and you are greeted with, ‘it’s not about getting the notes right, it’s about having fun’. Then there is some structure, simple, hand gestures, some tribal knowledge, and people that will show you the 3 notes you need to hit to start playing, and you are off. They have a well chosen repertoire with some classic street band songs, some more daring and symbolic, no sheet paper, no lessons, just learning by doing in the makeshift spaces we meet (now a nicer gym space…) and when we parade, and ohhhhh how good it is to parade! Not sure why, but you feel so great slowly marching through downtown Cambridge and Somerville, 100 folks with a smile on their faces, playing upbeat tunes and making everyone stop in their tracks, big smiles, cameras out, some mesmerized by what they are seeing. And, these folks play and dance, there are dance routines simple enough for anyone, and for those that can play and dance at the same time, you might have 80 playing and 20 dancing, but you might get the opposite.

The most important part is the crowd, the good mob, the people. They are all there to be a tiny cog in this great musical wheel, there are no soloists, or better yet, everyone gets a chance to be a soloist, if you choose to. I love the fact that I am that tiny cog, so tiny I can actually attend or not and the machine still works, I follow instructions, I add something, no one really knows me because there is not a lot of chit chat, just playing instruments, dancing and having fun. There are families where moms/ dads place their kids on their shoulders and parade, there are kids of all ages, some in groups, there are grandparents, diverse people from different genders and ethnicity, we all come alive when we show off the dotted side of our costumes.

Cities are a great place to be, but also scary and lonely, people dash across them trying to get their stuff done, not really engaging with others. We are all so different, torn by what we believe and defend, especially in modern times where we all seem to have more that differentiate us than unite. There is a need for safe spaces like these, where people from many different places come together and join hands in doing something, something that works for them but also impact positively others. What better than music to achieve that goal.

School of Honk is doing their Year-end Campaign and I beg of you to donate anything to help this organization, I do believe this is a worthy of your attention social musical experience. Thank you,


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