She’s a Washboard Wonder

Summer Puopolo smiles with Baby Jo’s Boogie Band.

Courtesy of Summer Puopolo

Summer Puopolo smiles with Baby Jo’s Boogie Band.

Harry Yung, Staff Reporter

Social and emotional counselor Summer Puopolo leads a rockstar life after school hours. 

Since 2019 she’s been playing the washboard and singing for Baby Jo’s Boogie Band. Puopolo got connected with her band by her brother, who played in another band led by accordion player Betty Jo Dominic. The band name “Baby Jo’s” would eventually come from them. 

Puopolo started singing  “You Are My Sunshine” with her brother for the band and eventually sang backup full-time. “That sorta snowballed into Betty Jo saying I should pick up something else, so I picked up the washboard,” Puopolo said. 

A washboard is a percussion instrument using the metal surface of the cleaning device. While Puopolo started with the tambourine,  “I wasn’t very good at the tambourine. Which seems really silly, because who isn’t good at the tambourine?” 

Before Puopolo joined, Baby Jo’s had another washboard player. “Betty Jo likes the sound a washboard brings to a band,” she said, and soon Puopolo was influenced enough to pick it up.

Puopolo started playing piano at age 8, took up the flute in middle school, and sang in the choir in high school. She grew up listening to jazz artists like Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. “That’s actually the kind of music we play in the band,” Puopolo said. 

Baby Jo’s Boogie Band performs a piece together (Courtesy of Summer Puopolo)

On top of performing with her band, Puopolo has also been hosting a teacher jam session after school on the breezeway. “I talked with Mr. P [music production teacher Trevor Przyuski] and he said he had wanted to do this for years,” she said.” He asked if we could get this together, and I was like ‘yeah we just have to tell people to come.’” 

“The first week that we had it a couple of people showed up, and then from there it’s really grown,” Puopolo said. “The teacher jam session is really great because it gives a chance for non-band members to play and have fun.” The after-school jam session is currently open only to staff but is eventually looking to expand to students too.

Puopolo loves seeing the audience every time she performs but it wasn’t always that way, “I used to get nervous when I would perform, like butterflies inside my torso and arms and legs,” Puopolo said.

At the end of the set, we often play a loud raucous-y song, and the horns and I walk out and around the space, kind of like a Mardi Gras parade through the crowd, everyone soloing at the same time.  That’s a time when I give it all I have left and really turn it up,” Puopolo said. “I’ve actually run into former students playing there multiple times,” she said.

Puopolo and Baby Jo’s Boogie Band plays every Monday at 6:30 PM at the Whiskey Jar.