Jamaica Plain Honk Band

We’re ready to make music in support of your next community event, festival, market, protest, block party, parade, gathering, etc… Reach out to us and if it’s a good fit we’ll try to make it happen.

If you are a musician (in JP or in any nearby place you don’t mind traveling from) and want to join in the fun, see the “Hello, musician!” section below – it has everything you need to get started! JP Honk is an open band and we accommodate a very wide range of musical experience.

We perform for a broad range of community events and organizations, most of which are located in Jamaica Plain and the surrounding Boston metro neighborhoods, but we also enjoy traveling farther afield (for example to Providence, RI and Lowell, MA).

  Our mission statement

The mission of JP Honk is to be an open community group focused on the enjoyment of making music (mostly of the exuberant street-band style) for ourselves, for local community organizations, and for activist causes we believe in; and to be an organization with intentionally shared leadership that welcomes all and values diversity, inclusion, and transparency.IMG-20191031-WA0000

A brief history

A brief history of The Jamaica Plain Honk Band a.k.a. JP Honk

The band grew from informal jam sessions among a small group of JP neighbors– mainly in the style of exuberant brass, rhythm, and percussion street music. In the earliest years much of the activity centered on “sowing chaos” at the annual Halloween block party on Dunster Road in JP.

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In time, more musicians joined in and regular rehearsals began to be held. Favorite additional annual performances included the Wake up the Earth festival, and later JP Porchfest.

At present our tradition of an open band, welcome to all, continues and grows. We now typically have 8-12 musicians or more at most rehearsals and up to 20-25 for some larger events, such as our annual Halloween performance, where it all started.

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Hello musician!

We’re an open band and we welcome you to come play with us. We rehearse weekly, generally Monday evenings. Weather permitting, we meet outside (typically on the plaza outside the Stony Brook MBTA station on the Orange Line, but we are exploring some other Jamaica Plain locations too), and during the colder months we use a nearby indoor practice space. Come make music with us—or just say hello and see how we roll. Feel free to email us at info@jphonkband.org with any questions.

If you’re thinking you may want to join in on a more regular basis, please give all the information here a careful read, especially the How we operate section below. Once you’re ready to try “plugging in” with us, it’s easy to do so yourself:

  • Get charts to our tunes using the Chart-O-Tron– the top few sections have the songs we play on the regular.
  • Register to join “JP Honk Band” at our gig scheduler, Gig-O-Matic
  • Sign up on our email listserve for casual conversation (low-traffic)
  • We have a WhatsApp chat for day-of-gig comms; ask one of us and we’ll add you

If you don’t have internet access, or choose not to be online, come to a rehearsal and let us know so we can do our best to help arrange to keep you connected outside of the above tools.

We look forward to seeing (and hearing) you!

(Also: if you start joining in with us someone may mention that you are also welcome to join our partner group “BABAM!” – an activist music group drawing from many bands in the area – they use similar tools as JP Honk and there is much overlap in membership – see their website for more information.)

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Some photos are courtesy of David F Parmenter, all rights reserved.

How we operate

We remain an informal group, always welcoming new musicians of any age, at any time, and on any instrument. There is no audition, and you need not live in (or even near to) Jamaica Plain. Beginners are welcome. Just be aware that:

  • We mostly play songs geared towards brass/wind and percussion instruments. (But don’t let that constrain you– we’ve had vocalists, a kazooist, a tap dancer, a woodsaw player, etc). With few exceptions, we play instruments that don’t require electricity, although some of us do use battery-powered portable instruments (for example, electronic keyboards).
  • If you have no prior experience at all with your instrument, and/or with reading music, some of us will likely enjoy helping provide some guidance. However, a better fit will probably be to first start playing with our friends at School of Honk in Somerville, because their mission includes strong emphasis on teaching for complete beginners who have no musical experience.
  • Our performances often involve playing while moving, for example marching in a parade, or walking in and among our listeners at ground level. We rarely play from a stage. As a result, it’s best if you can carry your instrument or easily be mobile with it, but if not then skipping gigs that involve a lot of marching or moving around could be a solution.

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We play throughout the year, usually with up to about 3-4 performances per month or more. During the coldest post-holidays part of winter, when there are fewer gigs, rehearsals continue and we spend more time learning new tunes.

We make sheet music to the songs we play available online using the Chart-O-Tron, but if you’re not able to easily access them or print them, let one of us know and we’ll try to make other arrangements with you.

Many of our songs feature instrumental solos. If you don’t want to solo you don’t have to… but when you’re ready, you will be encouraged to join in and solo. Many of our songs have a “sing along” vocals component (for the group as a whole, or for a solo vocalist).

All are invited to suggest new songs for us to learn and play. Although our repertoire changes at a  modest pace, it does evolve. If you can write arrangements and would like to, please do! This is not at all expected of you, but many of our favorite pieces and arrangements have been obtained, prepared, and/or given custom modifications by our musicians.

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By our very nature we consist of an ever-changing cast of characters, which requires a certain amount of patience. We don’t have formal section leaders or sectional rehearsals and the expectation is for everyone to be independently motivated. We post videos (here; also, search YouTube for “JP Honk”) of some rehearsals and performances, which are helpful to play along with, as a way to learn our repertoire on your own. But you may be disappointed if you are expecting rigid consistency, detailed instructions, or a lot of structure. As an all-volunteer organization we are flexible about attendance but everybody finds more joy in the experience when people commit to being at as many weekly rehearsals as possible, preparing beforehand, and being on time.

Our organizational structure is deliberately fluid. Leadership roles, including who leads each song at each performance, are intentionally:

  • distributed across multiple people,
  • not rigidly defined, and
  • shared or alternated among as many as are willing to participate.

Our decision-making process consists of open discussion and general consensus. We value transparency. Be sure to read, understand, and abide by our Anti-Harassment Principle (see below).

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We use multiple channels of communication. One of the most important is in-person conversations at rehearsals, performances, and get-togethers. For example we typically set aside a short time at the end of each rehearsal to briefly discuss planning and decision-making.

We also rely on the following online tools (if you don’t have internet access, or choose not to be online, come on out anyway and we will do our best to help arrange to keep you connected):

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Our Anti-Harassment Principle

Harassment of any kind is unacceptable. When JP Honk gathers, all musicians, participants, and visitors must behave on this basis. This applies to both in-person gatherings and online communications.

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments. They can be related, for example, to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, class, disability, age, physical appearance, intelligence, political views, musical skill, etc. Harassment also includes unwanted physical contact, deliberate intimidation, stalking or following, unwanted sexual attention, and deliberately disruptive communication (in person, or by phone or electronic means).

Any person who is asked to stop any harassing behavior is expected to comply immediately.

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About the name ‘JP Honk’

Long ago, when we consisted of just a few friends and neighbors—well before any of us had thought twice about whether the group should have a name—we were asked what we were called. Someone responded with an off-the-cuff remark “The Jamaica Plain Honk Band”. That was the origin of our name, and the shorthand “JP Honk” has stuck.

Fast forward to the present and “honk band” has grown to take on a more well-developed meaning associated with activist street bands more generally (see, for example, the description from our friends at HonkFest).

Q: Is JP Honk part of the HonkFest annual event in the fall in Somerville?

A: Like many other bands and organizations, we have participated in the annual parade at HonkFest. However, JP Honk is a separate entity from HonkFest.

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Q: Is JP Honk part of Somerville’s School of Honk ?

A: No (although some of us who play in JP Honk also play in School of Honk).

We love and support the broader “honk” movement and consider ourselves part of it. The activism referred to in our mission statement (see above) tends to come in the form of making music at community events in support of local organizations. We have considered changing our name to avoid confusion with other “honk bands”, but at present we have decided to remain “JP Honk” in order to continue the benefits—for us and for the community—of the strong positive name recognition developed over the years.

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