Adj Marshall

Posts Tagged ‘Alinsky’

Musical Activism

In Communication, Education, Music on January 6, 2011 at 11:49 am

ERB at Riverz Edge Fundraiser with Big Nazo

Any note is better than no note !

– ERB motto

As a bunch of costume wearing, alien fraternizing, activists, you may call us crazy we call it love… a love of music and community.  When or where you may ask did we fall in love, well the answer is different for all of us but one thing is for sure most of us had not played music in a decade or more if ever before joining the band.  The Extraordinary Rendition Band was formed in the fall of 2008 with an activist bent in mind, this is evident in the name that was chosen to represent the band. If you don’t know what I am talking about click here: Extraordinary Rendition. The Extraordinary Rendition Band or ERB as we like to refer to ourselves in short is a local activist marching band that calls Providence its home. I have been part of the ERB for just over a year now and am so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn and grown from such an amazingly diverse and wonderful group of individuals.

New Years 2011

How did I come to be part of an activist marching band…? My musical journey began at a table in my jr. high cafeteria where entire 7th grade took an aptitude test. I remember clearly the small dual cassette boom box that played notes as we all furiously scribbled onto our blank score sheets where we thought the notes belonged. The outcomes of the test would determined whether we were invited to be part of the band or not. Despite the alienating experience of not being invited I did not hesitate petitioning to be part of the band. My time with this group would however be short-lived, lasting a mere 10-month school year.  I bowed out quietly before having to put myself through the  chair test auditions (musical ranking process) that was to come in the fall.

I would avoid instrumental performance for close to 15 years before being introduced to the ERB by a friend at Wooly Fair 2009. I fell in love at first sight and defaulted to a position of groupie, as I continued to see myself lacking any musical skill. The fear of judgment and failure from my jr. high experience still lurked within me. The leap from groupie to official member came only after 5 months of steady encouragement from various band members.

Initially when I joined I knew very little about the intentional activism the band engaged in from its open band policy and democratic structure to its support of specific causes, now these are the things that endear me most to the band … and well of course all the amazing personalities that make up our awesome group. We have played in support of labor rights, queer rights, environmental awareness, arts and community organizations.

Here is an awesome short documentary of Activist Marching Bands from the HONK Fest: No Noise is Illegal !

Last years reading

Saul Alinsky, in his book Rules for Radicals, states “The spirit of democracy is the idea of importance and worth in the individual, and faith in the kind of world where the individual can achieve as much of their potential as possible”. In the ERB, we work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential through our democratic structure, where people are expected to contribute whether it be leading practice, managing gigs or composing music.

Band Practice !

Often times the term activist  or radical is associated with crazy. In many ways we are no different than most of you. In our professional lives we are engineering professors, art professors, college counselors, college students, music teachers, high school teachers, speech pathologists, graphic designers, toy designers, editors, and much more. Our open band policy attracts individuals of all ages spanning the gambit of early 20’s to early 60’s. In our society we so rarely find ourselves in inter-generational situations. On many levels this has alienated us from our elders and reinforced the concept of older generation as “out of touch” relegating them to a place of marginalization. For us the intergenerational element of our band’s make up is an essential piece of our musical creativity.

Our open band policy also means there are no “try outs” we accept individuals of all musical backgrounds. While a goal is to operate as one coherent group that eventually produces recognizable music our first and foremost goals is sharing the love of music with others. We work to break down the barriers between the performer and audience whether that be avoiding stages or inviting the audience to be an integral part of our band.  In many ways we attempt to break the mold of a Marching Band redefining for our selves and hopefully others who a musician is and what musicianship is while making saving the world just a little bit more fun and weird.

Websites of Interest:

The ERB

HONK Fest

Marching for Change: Street Bands in the U.S. Podcast by the National Radio Project on Activist Marching Bands:

No Noise is Illegal: Documentary on Activist Street Marching Bands




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