School of HONK Brings Joyful Noise

School of HONKPhoto courtesy of School of HONK.


So take the “give a man a fish” parable, and replace “man” with “anybody of any age” and “fish” with, say, “sousaphone,” and …

You know, let’s just stop there, because the potential of this idea is already almost too awesome to comprehend. Fortunately for Somerville, the good folks at the School of HONK have already run with it, bringing the masses to music so they can learn to make music to the masses.

Based out of the Robert F. Argenziano School in Davis Square, the School of HONK originated with the Honk Festival—an October gathering of “activist street bands” that’s been going on for a dozen years, says cofounder Shaunalynn Duffy. One of the defining features of the festival is how it “blurs the lines between musicians and attendees,” which apparently was more impactful than the organizers originally realized.

“We started noticing there was this growing community of people for whom once a year wasn’t enough,” says Duffy. “They wanted to participate more deeply to be able to make music and play music themselves, not waiting until October.”

And thus was born the School of HONK, where people of all ages and skill levels—and yes, that includes Level Zero—are welcome to show up and learn not just how to play an instrument but how to start performing pretty much right away.

“Our approach to teaching starts with a belief that practicing music should look the same as performing music,” Du y says. “Not only are there different parts for different instruments, but different parts for different musical skill levels, things that are still meaningful parts of the song.”

Now instead of just the annual festival, the School of HONK meets every Sunday afternoon to perform in public, including a summer tour around the greater Boston area.

Naturally, the opportunity to make a joyful noise is appealing to kids, who are de nitely welcome to join. One who has is Tim Molokov, a 9-year-old trumpeter from Belmont with experience at both School of HONK and the recently completed summer camp, Summer Honk.

He particularly likes the instructors—and the snacks.

“Everything is awesome there,” Tim says.

At the end of each day of camp, Tim and the other students would parade through the streets. He enjoys the experience of playing in public, since it’s such an unusual sight for most people these days.

For her part, Duffy came to HONK as an experienced musician, having taken up the clarinet as a kid. She was a sousaphonist with the school for a while, but then she noticed that while there was a lot of interest in the saxophone among new musicians, there weren’t enough teachers. And so she became a student again herself, learning to play saxophone at the School of HONK, and now she mentors aspiring saxophonists who are ready to join the band.

This story appears in the Scout’s Honored 2019 print issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.

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