More than once I have heard a knock on my door late in the evening and it turned out to be my School St. neighbor Kirk Etherton. Etherton is a very creative Somervillian and when the germ of an idea germinates in his head about the promotion of an artistic project neither the dark of night nor the cold blasts of winter can keep him from his appointed rounds. He has also been known to drop off artful notes in my mailbox, or stop me in the street to tell me about the latest fascinating person he met, something like a Tibetan monk who has a knack for kosher cooking, and is an excellent break dancer.
Lucy Holstedt, his other half, or as Etherton would surely put it his better half, is equally as active and passionate and the pair compliments each other well. Holstedt is a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and an accomplished pianist, composer, vocalist—and may I add one mean poet. Early in her career she started as a scientist working at a lab at Columbia University in New York City and lived on the Lower East Side. But eventually she gravitated to the music scene playing the piano in clubs, restaurants, and coffeehouse such as: Folk City and the Rosebud Coffeehouse, as well as other venues across the city.
In 1998 at Berklee, Holstedt started the Women Musicians Network event.It was established to have women students perform their own music. Now, years later, it is a very diverse network that strut their stuff on the stage. For instance, one group that is now big on the Boston music scene Zili Misik, is an all-female/Afro/Pop/Haitian/R&B/ group. This group got their start with the Network.
Etherton has for years worked in the advertising industry on projects for the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, the anti-smoking campaign for the Mass. Department of Health, to name just a few. But he is no slouch in his pursuit of the Arts. He is a published poet and won the 2009 Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award presented at the Somerville News Writers Festival. Etherton taught himself the guitar when he was a mere boy, and now in his middle years he composes and performs his own music and songs often in collaboration with Holstedt.
Right now Etherton is working on promoting a new record company Mountain of Leopards founded by a former Somervillian. He is also on the board of the Boston National Poetry Festival and has his hand in many organizations.
Holstedt reminded me she was part of the famed Mrs. Potato Head sketch comedy group, in which she developed characters and songs for this band of sisters. Her own music is played across the country mainly at Unitarian churches.
The two are lovers of Somerville. Both have lived in Somerville for 15 years. Holstedt lived on Ibbetson Street, where the Ibbetson Street Press was birthed. Of the city she said:
“It is a wonderful place. It has such a wide variety of people. It is international. All these pocket parks, cafes, etc… In Somerville everybody lets you pet their pet and chat with the children. You can be yourself here-and there is not a need to fit into a particular niche.”
Beside her, Etherton nodded in agreement. But from the corner of his eye I could see he was looking at the crowd at the crowded café for his next find in this burg we have come to know as the Paris of New England.