Breaking rules and dancing the Charleston at the Marion Art Center

May 14, 2023

MARION — Fedoras and feathered headbands lined the audience of the Buttonwood Brass band on Saturday, May 13. 

The Marion Art Center turned into a speakeasy with attendees dressed as 1920’s flappers and gangsters for a prohibition party. The theme of the spring arts event was inspired by the jazz music of the time period performed by the Buttonwood Brass band.

“I came one to drink and two to dress up,” said audience member Suzie Kokkins.

According to trombone player Michael Rocha, the Buttonwood Brass band is comprised of members from the larger South Coast Brass Band including Paul Chadbourne on tuba, Shawn Baptista on trumpet and Charles Kalajian on drums.

Rocha said that the ensemble was formed in 2017 at Marion’s own Stone Rooster to play 1920s-30s jazz music to smaller audiences.According to Rocha, Buttonwood Brass is the first Brass band to come out of Marion. 

“It was a period of time after World War I where the country was faced with coming back from that and it turned out it was very prosperous for the country at that time and there was a lot of liberation,”said trombone player Michael Rocha.

Rocha explained that prohibition also influenced the music performed by the band.

“People were going to have a good time regardless of what the rules were, there was a lot of rule breaking going on,” said Rocha.

In light of the theme,attendees brought their own beverages in flasks and bottles and hit the floor to dance the Charleston.

“Music is often a reflection of the times and the twenties were a little off the rails,” said Rocha. “From what I understand our great-grandparents were having a little bit too much of a good time.”