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Not your parents' marching bands: The history of HONK!, pedagogy and music education

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The HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands ( is an independent, grassroots, non-commercial weekend festival held each autumn in Somerville, Massachusetts. It is a moving spectacle of colourful marching bands, gigantic puppets, creative bikers, jugglers, hoopers, flag twirlers and stilt walkers, interspersed with unions, activist organizations and community groups. The deep history of HONK! derives from the role of military brass and drums in colonial conquest and religious conversion. As empires crumbled, these military and religious ensembles gave rise to community-based civilian bands that incorporated local popular musics to create new transcultural hybrids. HONK! represents one visible tip of a substantial underground of alternative street bands that encompasses large parts of the globe. The processes by which these bands operate provide an alternative model (or complement) to traditional music education. This research represents an embryonic attempt to articulate the values and techniques that comprise what I call HONK! pedagogy.

Keywords: HONK!; activism; brass band; community music; festival; marching band; music education; pedagogy; street band

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Massachusetts Boston

Publication date: December 9, 2011

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  • The International Journal of Community Music publishes research articles, practical discussions, timely reviews, readers' notes and special issues concerning all aspects of Community Music. The editorial board is composed of leading international scholars and practitioners spanning diverse disciplines that reflect the scope of Community Music practice and theory.
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