Porchfest: Creating Community through Music

| November 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

I don’t need to tell you that we’re becoming more isolated. There are plenty of thinkpieces about millennials and our tech, how people are interacting less, and how starkly partisan our politics have become. There are very few times that I feel engaged with my community, like we’re sharing a experience, connecting on a level we wouldn’t normally connect on. The only instances I can think of are at protests and over the summer at Jamaica Plain Porchfest.

Community and art are two powerful forces that are tightly intertwined, and they combined in a celebration of the human experience (cheesy, I know) on one beautiful July day this summer. Jamaica Plain is a vibrant neighborhood, full of restaurants and cafes, green space, and friendly-looking houses with porches. It’s the kind of place I could see myself living someday. I biked the couple of miles along the Emerald Necklace, a beautiful stretch of green along the Muddy River that runs through the Fens out to Jamaica Plain. It felt good to be outside, moving, enjoying the summer.

In JP, streets were blocked off to cars, so I locked my bike and joined the foot traffic. It was wonderful to see people out on sidewalks (so many babies and dogs!), kids selling lemonade and baked goods for charity, diverse people owning and occupying their community. Themes of freedom, unity, solidarity, and acceptance defined the event — posters were hung with illustrations of women of color and different religions proclaiming, “We all belong here. We will defend each other.”

I wandered along streets, stopping to see performances at different porches. Gin Daisy played twangy bluegrass and swing on a small, sunny porch. A few streets over, Bears at Work played a funky, rock remix of the Remix to Ignition under a towering beech tree on a grassy lawn. On the wide lawn of an old church, School of HONK!, a Cambridge-based community brass band, played raucous, infectious tunes. It was a conglomeration of trombones and trumpets, a trio of melodicas, some sousaphones, a few spare clarinets – definitely not the perfectly balanced instrumentation of a wind ensemble, but perfect for loud, celebratory, brassy noise. People danced barefoot on the lawn among the musicians, and everyone mixed together, sharing an experience. Musicians and dancers and onlookers alike were of all different ages, races, and genders. Building community through music, connecting despite our differences.

After I’d been watching School of HONK! for a while, the skies opened up and rain poured down on the grass, soaking everyone. Some people left, a few musicians packed up their horns, but most of the crowd laughed and kept dancing, getting muddy and wet but celebrating each other.



feature photo credit: Ellen Asermely

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Category: Boston, East by West by T, Music, Reflections

Ellen Asermely

About the Author ()

Ellen Asermely is a senior (!) in the Pardee School studying International Relations. Born and raised in Rhode Island, the smallest but weirdest state, she enjoys coffee milk, the Big Blue Bug, and Awful Awfuls. In her free time, Ellen can be found by the ocean, eating anything with cheese on it, reading Harry Potter, or hugging strangers' dogs.

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