"Spotlight Corner" 80's Punk Rock to the Classroom w/ Nancy Barile
We recently interviewed Nancy Barile who was instrumental in creating an all ages Punk Rock scene in the 1980s who is now an English Teacher at Revere High School. She is dedicated to inspiring young minds to think for themselves.
Tell us about your “story”. Where do you come from and what made you begin working in the music industry?
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I moved to the city in 1979 at the age of 19. I kind of fell into the music “industry,” although I wouldn’t have called what we did back in the early 1980s in Philadelphia an “industry.” I loved punk music, and I started managing a band. Back then, when we couldn’t see the bands we loved because they weren’t playing stadiums or they were playing clubs we were too young to get into, we decided to take matters into our own hands and do our own shows at Elks Centers and other halls we rented. When the band I managed wanted to bring their music to an all ages audience, we started doing our own shows, first as Punk Festivals with local bands, and then with more well-known bands.
What would you say, is your favorite thing about the music scene?
Back then my favorite thing about the music scene was definitely the energy. Punk was relatively new and hardcore even newer. The bands were explosive, and there was very little barrier between band and audience. It was huge fun.
What would you change?
Hindsight, of course, being 20/20, I wish I did way more shows with many more bands. Sometimes I wish I made a career out of it.
How long have you been active in the music community?
I was active from 1981 until about 1999, and then I was done. Things changed—everyone had a band. The music business, which was probably always corrupt, became even more so. People were shady and dishonest, and I didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. I was tired of being in dark, smoky clubs.
How has the industry changed since you began?
It was much more do-it-yourself back in the day. Punk and hardcore were new youth movements, and hardcore, especially, was completely run by youth. That was powerful, and so it was pure in a way. And I haven’t heard of any other youth music movement since that time. Even getting tickets for shows was different—if you camped out for tickets, you were guaranteed the first few rows. Now corporations get the best seats, and that sucks for the true fans.
What do you see for the future?
Well, I’m quite old now, but I don’t see a lot that gives me hope about the music industry. What I see is terrible. The sampling, the techno, the bankrupt lyrics, the regurgitation of the music I love in sampling by other wannabe stars—it’s all pretty brutal. I hoped when Trump was elected that I’d see a great rebellious response in the art and music world. I haven’t. I am hoping that I’m too old to know about it, though. I still have hope.
Any advice for up and coming bands, artists or music business entrepreneurs?
I think the do-it-yourself model still has value. I’d tell people what I tell my students: if you are passionate and you work hard, you can make it happen.
How has your path from music to the classroom made an impact in your life and your students?
Punk has had an enormous impact on me as a teacher. It helps me connect to disenfranchised and marginalized teens (because I remember what it was like). It helps me to understand the importance and power of oral and written communication. It reminds me to create assignments that ask my students to take a stand despite conflicting data, complicated politics, and intense societal pressure. I want to equip my students with the skills necessary to understand perspectives and cultures and to comprehend, critique, and demonstrate independence. And the do-it-yourself work ethic has been enormously valuable in gaining resources for my classroom and providing opportunities for my students.
Plug away on your book and all things Nancy B!
My book, I’m Not Holding Your Coat: A Punk Rock Memoir, is coming soon! It’s just my little story of being part of a pretty exciting and vital youth movement in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. I was lucky enough to see some great music back then from Minor Threat to the Bad Brains to SS Decontrol to the Dead Kennedys.