Law student lives out musical passions through femme-punk band

March 03, 2020

Becca Zarras balances life in a femme-punk, pictured left, and being a Law student at Detroit Mercy, pictured right.Becca Zarras has been hooked on music for as long as she can remember.

Whether it was singing in her church choir or savoring the classic tunes of The Beatles and Louie Armstrong with her father, music has provided the soundtrack to many memorable experiences for the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law student. 

Over the past three years, music has taken on another role in Zarras’ life: She’s the lead guitarist and singer of First Responders, a femme-punk band she formed with three friends in Kalamazoo.

“Music is my passion because it’s a healthy outlet for my thoughts and emotions,” Zarras said. “Sometimes I write silly songs, sometimes I write sad songs, but ultimately, the choice is up to me. I enjoy having free range.” 

Femme-punk is a genre that is different for everyone, Zarras explains. “But for me, it represents not being afraid to stray outside the norms of society. Women and femme-identifying individuals are taught to be quiet and passive, but with femme-punk, we can be loud and confident,” she said.

Zarras’ rock-star story is one of discovery and following passions.

She was introduced to do-it-yourself music as an undergraduate student at Western Michigan University and started attending house shows – musical performances hosted in performers’ houses. Zarras enjoyed the intimacy of the performances so much that she was inspired to learn to play the guitar.

“I also lived in a house that hosted shows, so that was a motivator to learn,” she said. 

Happenstance meetings for Zarras led to the formation of First Responders. She met Ina Foster-Goodrich, the band’s drummer, after performing together at an informal music event. Zarras shared the news of the impromptu performance with her then-roommate Kayley Kerastas, who offered to play bass. Kerastas’ friend Hope Thomas, who plays the ukulele, completed the group. 

“We practiced and right then and there, First Responders was born,” Zarras said. “The name came up because Ina’s parent was a firefighter and both my parents were police officers. 

“We call ourselves First Responders because we are here to help fight the patriarchy.”

Zarras and company played their first show together in September 2017 and released their first album titled “You Rang?” a year later. The album features seven tracks showcasing the band’s playful femme-punk side.

Zarras particularly enjoys the performance side of music. She says one of her favorite musical memories is when First Responders joined another Kalamazoo-based band for a weeklong Midwest tour the summer before she returned to southeast Michigan to study at Detroit Mercy Law.

“I get to tell a story on stage that will hopefully evoke emotions out of the audience,” Zarras said. “I enjoy the theatrics – it’s still me up there, just a bit exaggerated.”

A 2L student at Detroit Mercy Law, Zarras chose Detroit Mercy Law because of its Jesuit and Mercy values. 

“They emphasize giving back to the community and offer many opportunities for students to do that,” she said. “Their motto is ‘Educating the complete lawyer.’ I appreciate that the school is not just focused on who gets the highest grade in a class, but to make sure we are the best possible advocates for equality and justice.”

Zarras and her calendar have been inseparable over the past two years. It’s her trusty tool to ensure she is able to balance a busy life that includes law school, First Responders and other things important to her.

“I have to prioritize and that usually means law school comes first,” Zarras said. “We don’t play as many shows as we used to, but we still play shows and that is what is important to me.”

Her classmates and professors at Detroit Mercy Law have been supportive of her musical endeavors. 

“I was pleasantly surprised at the positive reception I received when I first told fellow students and professors that I am in a femme-punk band,” Zarras said. “Everyone has been supportive of it. Fellow students, and even a judge, came out to one of our shows we played in Hamtramck.”

The internet and modern-day technology make it easier than ever to become a musician. But Zarras isn’t looking to strike it rich with her guitar or microphone. Rather, she wants First Responders to impact others by helping them to also follow their passions.

“The goal of First Responders is like any other form of art — to be seen and heard,” she said. “I hope that we can inspire other individuals, especially femme-identifying ones, to follow their passions, whether music related or not. I hope they see us on stage and think, ‘If they can do it, so can I.’ ”

— By Ricky Lindsay. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.