by Joyce Toth
The #ResistanceBand is a group of musicians who fight for social change and who protest unjust policies through the power of music. The idea of the band originated from the NYC Women’s March. (Fellow Local 802 member Lorraine Cohen and I had planned to go together, but she had a death in the family and could not attend.) I was unable to find the Local 802 group because of the crowds, and I ended up marching with the Broadway people. Pam Fleming’s music group impressed me with their ability to rouse the crowd and keep people engaged in the protest, so with Lorraine’s invaluable help, I began to try to make my own group, focusing especially on brass and percussion players. My overarching vision was to eventually have music groups all over the country, making a joyful noise in support of the resistance, so that rallies and marches are more prominent, effective, and media-worthy.
Since Lorraine and I are in Westchester and Putnam, the first event we got a group together for was the White Plains Defend Immigrants and Refugees Rally. We were a quintet of three trumpets (Lorraine, Al Torrente and myself) and two trombones (Howard Levy and Alan Goidel). I think the organizers were doubtful that we were “real” musicians, but once they heard us play, they shut down their sound system and let us play “This Land Is Your Land” and other patriotic songs. By the end, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the other speakers were our fans. I’d like to think that we did achieve a little more publicity for the event: the web site of the local Journal News (www.lohud.com) featured snippets of our songs at the beginning and end of their video coverage.
Our next performance was at the Not-My-President’s Day March in NYC, where Lorraine and I were joined by Jordan Hirsch, Debbie Keefe Johns, Shelagh Abate (on bass drum!), John Redsecker, Stephen Moses, Judith Hirschman and Jon Roth. Last-minute illness forced Barbara Allen and Jami Dauber to cancel. We were in contact with the organizers from the beginning and made sure we would be welcome. I wrote new charts. (We had learned in White Plains that as an outdoor group in the winter we needed to keep the charts simple.) The ever-changing instrumentation as people RSVP’d and un-RSVP’d meant we needed to be able to use Finale to transpose at the last minute when we had final commitments. At the event, we played from halfway back in the crowd until the organizers approached us and asked us to replace a performer who had backed out at the last minute. So we got to perform on the main stage and hopefully made the rally that much better.
The Resistance Movement is made possible by technology. We used text messaging and Facebook to recruit people and spread information. The charts were done on the computer, and can be altered and reprinted with little effort as the band’s requirements change. All of us in the band are active in Indivisible Groups, Facebook resistance groups and local political parties. Our #ResistanceBand is just another way to support democracy, be active, have fun and see friends! If other groups are interested in forming for local events, we will share charts. And we can always use more musicians and talented arrangers. Join us by sending an e-mail to ResistanceBandNYC@gmail.com.