Hidden In Suburbia

By Jeri Zeder

Eliza Kuechle, 13, is the author of Keek’s Cookbook, a collection of recipes she created for people who live in food deserts. Courtesy photo.

Food insecurity in prosperous communities

Last school year, thirteen-year-old Eliza Kuechle learned lessons she’ll never forget.

Eliza lives in Lexington, attends Belmont Day School, and was blessed to have as her seventh-grade social studies teacher Gretchen Fogelstrom, who taught a class on food justice. The students learned about the food industry—from Big Corn to harvesters, truckers, meat packers, food deserts, and food waste—through the lens of the people directly involved, and engaged in a “design-thinking action challenge”: identifying population groups affected by food injustice and crafting solutions to mitigate their struggles.

Of particular interest to Eliza was food deserts. A food desert is an area where most of the community lives at least one mile from, and has very limited access to, the nearest supermarket. People in food deserts tend to rely heavily on fast food and convenience stores—not particularly healthful options.

“I never really realized that this was the case,” says Eliza (her last name is pronounced KEEK-lee). It dawned on her that, for her class project, she could write a cookbook to help people in food deserts prepare healthy meals.

Eliza’s journey to authoring Keek’s Cookbook has lessons for us all about food insecurity, and not just in food deserts, but right here in Lexington, where relative affluence can mask real need.

HUNGRY IN LEXINGTON   Food insecurity is the condition of living without access at all times to enough food to live an active and healthy life.

Before the pandemic, around one in fourteen—some 2,300 Lexington residents—were food-insecure. During the pandemic, that number rose to one in ten—around 3,300—likely an undercount, says Adriene Worthington, Director of Nutrition Programs for The Greater Boston Food Bank. This hardship causes more than hunger. “We find that a lot of people who are having a hard time affording food have to make really difficult choices between paying for food or paying for things like heat or medication,” Worthington says.

Even before the pandemic, the Lexington Food Pantry was serving around 140 people each week, primarily seniors. That number shot up to around 252 during the pandemic, at one point hitting a high of 350, and the demographics shifted from mostly senior households to mostly families with children. The stimulus checks brought those numbers down, but as recently as June, the pantry was still serving slightly more than 200 people a week.

“There is this perception that, if you live in Lexington, you couldn’t possibly need help,” says Usha Thakrar, a member of the Lexington Food Pantry’s board of directors and executive director of Boston Area Gleaners, a nonprofit that connects farms to those in need. “I can’t tell you the number of people who say to me, what do you mean, there’s a food pantry in Lexington?” That lack of awareness, she says, “creates this barrier to asking for help or accessing services because of the perception that if you live in this town and can afford to live in this town, you must not need assistance—which is not accurate.”

Harriet Kaufman, one of the founders of Lex Eat Together, a nonprofit offering community meals, says, “We knew that there were people in Lexington who were food-insecure, and we thought that it was probably beyond what the public records show.” During the pandemic, when community meals weren’t possible, Lex Eat Together turned toward financially supporting the Lexington Food Pantry and helping to get to the Pantry meals made by Minuteman High School students from food rescued by Food Link, an Arlington-based nonprofit.

With support from Lex Eat Together and Food Link, the Lexington Food Pantry offered meals made by Minuteman High School students during the pandemic.

Lexington, in fact, is a diverse community with wide economic disparities, according to Melissa Interess, Director of the Town’s Human Services department. In this town, where the median home value is around $1.3 million and median household income is more than $186,000, the following is also true:

  • 3.2 percent—around 1,300 Lexington residents—live at or below the federal poverty line (2019 numbers).
  • 8 percent—around 2,600 Lexington residents—are enrolled in MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program (2018 numbers).
  • Since December 2016, the number of Lexington residents receiving SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) hovered around 700. That number swelled to nearly 900 during the pandemic.

In 2019, thanks to donations and public trust funds, the Town of Lexington Human Services department distributed $2,800 in grocery assistance and $20,738 in financial assistance to residents in need.

“Don’t make assumptions. That’s what I hope people take from these numbers,” Interess says.

TURNING DATA INTO ACTION   As Eliza discovered, it’s challenging to transform information into truly effective solutions. The very first recipes she developed were wonderful, but they needed tweaking to reflect the limited groceries that are available to low-income people marooned in food deserts. At Ms. Fogelstrom’s suggestion, Eliza visited a local convenience store to better understand what her target audience was up against. “I noticed that every food that they sold there was canned. And so, I had to back up and say, well, in my recipes, none of the food was canned. I basically had to start again,” she says. Her original breakfast parfait recipe called for yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola. “But,” she says, “they don’t have granola or fresh fruit at convenience stores. So, I created a new recipe: a parfait with yogurt and shredded wheat.” In a sad but realistic nod to convenience-store shopping, with the exception of bananas, none of Eliza’s recipes include fresh produce.

What Eliza accomplished—that shift in her thinking—is a lesson for anyone seeking to make a difference. “We tend to approach solutions from our own vantage point,” Ms. Fogelstrom says. “Eliza had to take that very mature step and get out of herself and realize, well, I do want to make an impact, and that means I need to do something that maybe I won’t necessarily want to use myself. And once she started figuring it out, she caught fire, and it was great.”

LEXINGTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO THE RESCUE    In a typical year, nearly 650 Lexington Public School students, or 8 to 9 percent of the student population, receive free or subsidized lunch through the National School Lunch Program. But when the pandemic hit, nothing was typical. The economy tanked. Schools closed in March of 2020. Through a combination of state and federal support, the LPS Food Services department quickly pivoted to offering free breakfast and lunch to anyone aged 0 to 21, and did so for the next fifteen months, seven days a week, summer included. Staff members worked while masked and socially distanced and largely before there were vaccines to protect them.

“There’s been a tremendous sense of pride to be part of that,” says LPS Food Service Director Kevin Silvia.

 

From March 2020 to June 2021, the Lexington Public Schools Food Services department prepared and distributed 175,952 free breakfasts and 335,657 free lunches to residents aged 0 to 21 experiencing food insecurity. Photos courtesy of Lexington Public Schools. Courtesy photos. 

By the time the program ended this June, LPS had served 175,952 free breakfasts and 335,657 free lunches by dropping meals into the trunks of cars lined up at the “open site” at Lexington High School, or, in the case of about twenty-five families unable to travel, by delivering to their homes. It was a lifeline. “Some people got emotional when we were giving them the food,” recalls LPS Procurement Operations Manager Debbie Harvey. “They were like, ‘We never asked for food before, but we really need it.’”

Though that program is over, during academic year 2021-2022, LPS will provide free lunch to all in-school students through a nationwide program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The importance of this assistance for children’s growth and education can’t be overstated. “A child who goes without nutrition in their system for twelve or more hours—it does terrible things to their ability to focus and learn and synthesize information,” says David Coelho, LPS’s Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations.

POKING HOLES   As Eliza delved into her project, her cookbook kept improving. “My teacher is really into poking holes,” Eliza says. “That’s what she calls it. It’s really making your brain think deeper. If it weren’t for her poking holes, I definitely wouldn’t have this final product.”

That final product, in addition to recipes, has some nifty features: a Google map identifying food deserts and convenience stores in Malden, Waltham, and Woburn; a shopping list and week’s meal plan; and tables comparing the nutritional value and cost of each recipe to a McDonald’s meal. “I didn’t realize that McDonald’s is actually pretty expensive compared to the recipes that I created,” Eliza says. She adapted many of her recipes from those provided on the Campbell’s Soup website, and she kitchen-tested each one herself.

Of course, part of the fun of project-based learning is seeing what your classmates come up with. Some students developed a prototype for a biodegradable six-pack soda ring. Others assembled a website dedicated to a meatless diet. Still others created podcast episodes addressing food inequality, access, and waste. “The kids were fully engaged,” Ms. Fogelstrom says. “I heard them say over and over again, ‘I didn’t know about any of this! We have to do something about it!’”

Lexington resident Rachel Mott-Keis has shared Keek’s Cookbook with the nutritionists at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, where she is a family physician. “Most of my patients who are struggling financially are working one and even two jobs, and they still can’t make ends meet. It’s an unfortunate testament to our current economy and how wealth is distributed,” she says. “Everyone’s health is improved when the health of the community as a whole is better.”

And as Eliza shows us, there’s so much we can do if we’d only give it some thought.


Food Insecurity in Lexington—Ways to Give and Get Help

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Immigration in Lexington

BY E. ASHLEY ROONEY

We have all heard the saying that America is a nation of immigrants. Almost all Americans today either immigrated themselves or are descended from immigrants, whether from England in the colonial era, other parts of Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries, or Latin America and Asia in more recent times. This trend shows no sign of stopping, and, on a national, state, and local level has made us a more economically dynamic and culturally rich society.

According to the American Immigration Council, one in six Massachusetts residents is an immigrant, while one in seven residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. Here in Lexington, immigration trends have changed over the centuries. With each new settlement, the look of Lexington has also changed. From Irish workers in the 19th century to the more recent addition of Asian professionals, immigration has made our town that much richer and more diverse.  And it will continue to evolve and develop in fascinating ways.

Irish immigration 

Above: Situated at the corner of Burlington and Hancock Streets, the 200-acre Kinneen farm spanned the area from Grove Street to where Diamond Middle School now stands and included what is now Kinneen Park. Photo from the Lexington Historical Society Archives.

By 1850, the Irish were the largest ethnic group in Boston. A significant number of Irish immigrants found work in Lexington, maintaining the railroad, working on farms, or as maids – especially at local hotels. It was only natural that those who farmed in the old country would migrate to farming communities such as Lexington.

By 1865, the number of Lexington citizens born in Ireland had grown to 353. The flood of Catholic Irish into town brought about the founding of the first Catholic church in 1875. In the Centennial of St. Brigid’s Parish, Robert Wright (p. 9) stated that “the foundation of the infant church and later the large super structure would thusly be paid in large part by the maids and the gardeners and the farmers out of the meager earnings they gathered in the great houses of the town.” Of the 266 families surveyed in the 1885 Lexington census, 61 had a head of household born in Ireland.

Most of the Irish lived across the railroad tracks by the streets now known as Woburn, Vine, and Cottage. Integration with the long-term Lexington citizens was slow. Some Irishmen found it difficult to purchase land, but eventually they succeeded.

By 1870, approximately 12 Irish residents had managed to purchase their own farms in Lexington. Situated at the corner of Burlington and Hancock Streets, the 200-acre Kinneen farm spanned the area from Grove Street to where Diamond Middle School now stands and included what is now Kinneen Park. The Maguire family purchased the Katahdin Woods property in 1864; they owned the eastern length of Wood Street by the turn of the century. James Alexander Wilson, who immigrated in 1877 to work on his uncle’s farm, bought a farm along Pleasant Street in 1903. We know that farm today as Wilson Farms.

Lexington became well known for its dairy and animal breeding. In 1875, only Worcester produced more milk and grazed more cows than Lexington.

The Next 100 Years

According to the 1885 State Census, the proportion of residents who were first or second-generation immigrants was 45 percent. By the end of the century, Lexington was becoming more of a town as the farmland turned into house lots.

In the 1950s and 1960s, after Route 128 was opened, entire neighborhoods were created such as Turning Mill and Peacock Farm.  The fields of celery, corn, and tomatoes were cleared, and affordable houses aimed at young middle-class families were built. Lexington was now  accessible to young families desiring to live in the green-grassed suburbs but commute to work along 128 or in Boston.  Many of the men worked at nearby universities and research institutions. Their wives cared for the children, ran the household, and volunteered in the community.

The exodus  from the older neighborhoods in Greater Boston to the suburbs created new Jewish communities in many towns, including Lexington. Many Jewish scientists, business people, and entrepreneurs found careers in Route 128 industrial parks west of Boston. The welcoming and caring spirit of the town is evident in that three Lexington churches—Methodist, First Parish, and Hancock—generously offered worship space to the Jewish congregation. Temple Isaiah, with 71 families, was on its way.  In May of 1963, the first Annual Meeting was held in the new building; on September 13-15, 160 member families celebrated  the official Dedication Weekend for the new building.

Between 1979 and 1990, Lexington residents came together through the Lexington Ecumenical Resettlement Coalition to help 16 Cambodian families fleeing the horrors of genocide in their country and assist them in resettling here in Lexington. Within this supportive network, the Cambodian families adjusted to the United States and had the opportunity to create a community for themselves.

From the early 20th century, waves of Armenians arrived In the United States for political reasons and economic opportunities. In 1982, Armenian Sisters’ Academy at 20 Pelham Rd. opened, and Armenian families moved to Lexington to offer their children an Armenian/American education. The now-defunct Armenian Sisters’ Academy was a comprehensive Armenian elementary and middle school committed to educating the whole person.

Today, Lexington has continued its tradition of being a warm, welcoming community by forming a coalition of concerned citizens from the town and surrounding communities, calling itself the Lexington Refugee Assistance Program or “LexRAP.” LexRAP is a Lexington-based non-profit organization helping refugees to settle in the United States and to become productive and well-adjusted members of the community. This assistance includes a support network for housing, food, clothing, transportation, health care, education (especially learning English), employment, legal aid, and socialization. Beneficiaries of this assistance must have received (or be legally seeking) permission to live in the U.S., either temporarily or permanently.

Asian Immigration

In 1940, Lexington residents included only five people from a race other than Black or White in its population of 13,187. The 1970 census shows Asians composed  2% of the population, but in those days, the categories listed under ‘Asian’ were only ‘Chinese’ and ‘Other Asian.’

The family photo above is of Jinling Liao and her family who immigrated from China.

The loosening emigration restrictions under Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader of the People’s Republic of China, in the late 1980s and the end of the Soviet state in 1991 stimulated more foreign-born scientists and researchers to immigrate. Although Chinese immigration to the United States dates back to the 19th century, the Chinese immigrant population multiplied during the 1990s and 2000s. According to the Migration Policy Institute, today, there are almost as many native-born U.S. citizens who claim Chinese ancestry as there are Chinese immigrants.

The Chinese moved to Lexington because of its good schools, welcoming diversity, and proximity to Boston and Route 128.  My friend Jinling says, “Living in  Lexington  made us feel we have been truly living in our American Dream:… having the opportunity to become whatever we want to be as long as we are willing to work hard;  being  able to get  our children the best education  we can have in the world; being accepted by a lot of  friends who are well educated, open-minded and warm-hearted intellectuals in this diversified community .”

According to the Pew Research Center, “the Indian population in the United States has doubled since 2000. Many are engineers, doctors, and scientists. Indians are highly educated (72%) with bachelor’s degrees or above compared to other U.S. Asians (51%) and the general U.S. population (30%).”

Today, according to a recent Boston Globe article (6/7/2021), Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in Greater Boston, “surging 207 percent from 1990 to 2019 compared with 166 percent for Latino people and 52 percent for Black people.  Disparities within the Asian American community are enormous, often reflecting the wide range of immigration paths from refugees to employment-based visas.”

In 1990, Lexington’s Asian population was about  6.5%. Like many others, they are skilled professionals wanting to settle down and attracted to Lexington because of its professional and academic residents and commitment to good schools. Many Asians are engaged in town government and participate on its many boards or committees.

The U.S. Census (July 1, 2019) estimates that the town’s population was 33,132, the racial makeup of the community was 63.8% White, 30.1% Asian 1.3% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 0.5% from other races, and 3.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino were 2.1% of the population. Although Lexington may not precisely reflect immigration trends nationwide, our town has nonetheless benefited immeasurably through the centuries from the influx of people from other countries. Our culture is enriched, ideas exchanged, and minds expanded. Who knows what Lexington will look like in another 100 years?

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All Things Sustainable

Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

By Mark D. Sandeen

Q: How are climate and infrastructure linked?
A: When we invest in infrastructure like airports, roads, buildings, and power plants, we are making investments we hope will last for 50 years or more. But almost every week we hear about major infrastructure failures caused by climate change. Extended power outages, massive flooding, buckling roads, aircraft grounded, all caused by unprecedented temperatures, drought, and extreme storms.
Infrastructure designed to work in yesterday’s climate, just doesn’t cut it in today’s climate, to say nothing of tomorrow’s climate. Roads in the Pacific Northwest buckled in the 116°F heat, fully 10 degrees hotter than the previous hottest day on record. Steetcars shut down when power cables sagged and melted and thousands lost power when they needed it most. 70% of our power plants are dependent on cooling water to operate. Those plants reduce power or shut down when the cooling water gets too hot or is no longer available due to drought conditions. Climate change is both increasing demand for power while simultaneously damaging the grid’s ability to deliver that power.
Solar and wind power are not dependent on cooling water to produce power. Local renewable energy systems combined with batteries provide resilience when the grid is stressed. In a rapidly changing world, we need to design for the future.

Q: What does that mean for us here in Lexington?
A: While Canada was getting heat wave headlines, we were having our own unprecedented heat wave right here in Lexington. We sweated through temperatures of 95 to 96°F for 3 days in June that felt like 104 to 112°F according to the National Weather Service’s heat index. If we were living in a stable climate, the odds of Lexington having 3 days over 95°F in June would have been 1 in 5 million.

Lexington had 8 days in May and June over 90°F. The Town canceled school because our older school buildings could not provide enough outside air ventilation to keep students healthy at temperature and humidity levels that used to happen only in July and August. On the other hand, our newest school buildings were designed to operate effectively in a climate more like Baltimore than Boston. And those schools were designed to produce 100% of their own power from solar and operate with battery backup in case of outages. Surprisingly our new schools built to these standards have lower total life cycle costs than conventional designs.

Q: What other infrastructure decisions can have a major impact on climate?
A: Parking. Yes, parking has a big impact not only on climate, but on many other issues we care deeply about in Lexington, such as affordable housing, traffic, health, justice, and economic development. Roughly 52% of the buildable commercial land on Hartwell Avenue is dedicated to parking.
Our laws establish separated zones for housing, working, and shopping. Those laws then require developers to provide enough parking spots to enable travel between those zones in single-occupancy vehicles.


There are four parking spots for every car in America. And much of that land sits empty much of the time. This is a waste of valuable real estate that could be used for housing or lab space. It is also a massive subsidy for the automotive and oil industries. We all pay for this subsidy in higher housing costs, office rents and increased traffic, noise, and air pollution that affects our health and quality of life.

If you can drive to work and park for free a couple of yards from the front door, that certainly makes driving a car seem like the obvious choice. But if car owners began paying the true cost of parking, they’d be much more likely to choose public transportation, (e)biking, or walking.

It’s a virtuous circle. Fewer parking spots mean more people taking public transportation, which justifies increased frequency of service, which means more people taking public transportation, which means less traffic, less air pollution, less noise, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The Town earns new commercial tax revenue, which lowers our residential taxes, all from changing the status quo on free parking.

It’s also a virtuous circle when it comes to affordable housing. Reducing parking requirements from 1.5 to 1 spot per apartment, lowers housing costs while increasing the number of affordable apartments by up to 50%. If you’d like to learn more, I’d highly recommend reading “The High Cost of Free Parking” by Donald Shoup.

Instead of staying parked in the past, let’s ride into the future!


Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org.

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Carol S. Ward Named as New Executive Director of the Lexington Historical Society

By E. Ashley Rooney

 

Carol S. Ward will be the new Executive Director of the Lexington Historical Society. PHOTO BY PAUL DOHERTY

Lexington Historical Society (LHS)  is pleased to announce  that Carol S. Ward will be the new Executive Director beginning September 7. Previously, Carol was the Director of One River School of Art and Design in Larchmont, New York, where she oversaw business, education, and administration oversight for the for-profit art school and contemporary art gallery.

For the previous ten years, she served as Executive Director of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, an historic house museum and arts education center in Washington Heights, New York City. Her experience spanned a wide variety of departments including programming, education, curatorial, marketing, development, fundraising and board relations. Under her leadership she increased the operating budget significantly and led the Mansion to record attendance.

Here in Lexington, she will provide strategic thinking and hands-on management for a vibrant organization serving the local community and visitors from around the world. LHS manages and interprets to the public three historic house museums with significant connections to the Battle of Lexington, provides stewardship of important collections and archives spanning three centuries of Lexington history, and provides year-round programming to the community at its Lexington Center headquarters and program center, its historic houses, as well as on a virtual platform.

Carol comes to LHS with nearly 20 years of experience. She has focused on connecting organizations with their community, increasing fundraising and earned income opportunities, and developing “outside the box” programs and events to make historic sites more contemporary and relevant. She intends to use all these skills at LHS and already has some ideas percolating in her head about ways to connect contemporary art to the historic mission of the organization. She also wants to establish a stronger relationship between the downtown area of Lexington and LHS, creating ways to activate the Depot and the outdoor spaces of all the properties.

When asked about her vision for LHS over the next five years, Carol replied, “LHS is an amazing organization that has an exciting institutional history and so many great things going on now. My goal is to take the organization to the next level using my background in strategic planning, marketing, operations and programming. LHS should showcase the dynamic history of Lexington for the diverse communities that surround it. Honoring the mission and history is of utmost importance to me, and then developing innovative new things to expand the offerings to assist in fundraising efforts and to diversify how people see and perceive LHS. The story of Lexington needs to be told and shared with as many people as possible!”

People skills are essential to success in an organization that depends on the coordination of staff and volunteers. In all of her  previous positions, Carol has led a staff (from commissioned sales people to arts educators) and also had a dedicated volunteer corps to help lead tours, work on events, interface with the community, and achieve  fundraising goals. She is experienced in building strong relationships with current and prospective donors and  fostering productive partnerships with other entities.

LHS President Barry Cunha noted that “…during our talks with Carol, she stood out immediately as someone who combines many strengths derived from her experiences in both the non-profit and business worlds, as well as in both historic houses and contemporary art. We are confident she will bring LHS to a new level and excited to work with her.”

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Exploring Lexington’s ‘Outdoor Museums’ with Tom Sileo

BY LAURIE ATWATER

Tom Sileo

During the coronavirus lockdown, many of us turned to the outdoors to escape cabin fever and help us deal with the anxiety and despair happening around us. Nature has a well-researched restorative effect.  Humans are wired to have an affinity for the natural world, according to E.O. Wilson, professor emeritus of biology at Harvard. In his 1984 book Biophilia (which loosely translates to “love of life”), Wilson says that our love of nature is an evolutionary desire to be surrounded by other forms of life in the natural world. It is therapeutic, especially in a time of uncertainty.

It’s no wonder that Lexingtonians Les and Cindy Savage turned to walks as a respite from being cooped up.  In 1995 Lester purchased many copies of a book written by Lexington resident Tom Sileo. He would give the book to his real estate clients as a gift. The book, Historical Guide to Open Space in Lexington, is a multi-faceted guidebook to each of the conservation properties in Lexington. But it is so much more than your standard handbook for nature lovers. It is a book designed to immerse the reader in the history of each place—the ways that the land was used by its owners and the human-made contributions to the landscape. Additionally, it contains Tom’s knowledgeable observations on plants and tree species as well as animals and birds you might find there.

Sileo’s book is available at the Buckman Tavern gift shop.

Setting out for a walk on conservation land, Les and Cindy would grab the book and head out with a couple of friends to explore. “We started to read about the interesting history of these places…and very quickly we realized the value of this rich history, and the book,” Cindy says.  They started giving Les’s last copies away to their friends. Soon the word got out that they had this book, and the requests started coming in. With their supply dwindling, the couple reached out to the author and convinced him to reprint this invaluable resource.

The book has now been updated and reprinted and is for sale at the Buckman Tavern gift shop in Lexington. Tom has generously decided to donate the proceeds from the book’s sales to the Lexington Historical Society and the Lexington Conservation Commission.

I now have my copy of the book, and  I understand what a great resource it is! Each chapter is devoted to a different property and contains the relevant history of the place, observations about flora and fauna, and suggested walks. It makes a lively and entertaining walking companion and a great way to learn about the history of the community through the years.

At Cindy’s suggestion, I contacted Tom, and we talked about the book and how he came to write it, his love of history and the natural world.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


 

Laurie Atwater: Would tell me a little bit about this book and how you got the idea to write it back in 1995?

Tom Sileo: Well, Alice Hinkle, at the time, was the editor of the [LexingtonMinuteman. She loved the conservation lands, and I loved the outdoors. I was living in Lexington then. My grandfather lived in Lexington for a long time, and I moved from Boston to Lexington because I was familiar with it. Previous to that, I did a little bit of writing on the outdoors. So when I came to Lexington, I started walking the conservation lands, liked what I saw, and I liked the whole philosophy. So I started writing articles that Alice Hinkle published in the Lexington Minuteman.

What’s an example of a typical article you might have written for the Minuteman?
For instance, I might do Whipple Hill. I’ll go over the history of Whipple Hill, as I could find it from the library, the town hall, the Town Clerk’s office. Then I would combine that history with the previous land uses that make up the property that caused it to be the way it is. And then, I would describe a suggested walk and a natural history of a place. I’m familiar with, plants, flowers, and herbs. So it would be a fairly light article that would describe a bit about the history a bit about the physical nature of the place.

So, I started doing research on Lexington’s history and on these properties. And I realized that so much happened in Lexington that people aren’t familiar with because it’s overshadowed by, of course, revolutionary history.

So I decided that I could use these properties as “outdoor museums.” It fit with the conservation commission’s philosophy—to try to have a conservation land in everybody’s backyard. I discovered that in the early days, they really fought hard to preserve these properties. And David Williams is unbelievable—he’s the guy behind the curtain who is so vocal about conservation land and protecting property. He makes it all happen. So, for instance, when you drive down 128 in Lexington, you don’t see lots of buildings. You get a sense that Lexington is this rural town because as you pass through it on the highway, you see these conservation lands. So, they did a very thoughtful job of this.

I was a stockbroker back then, and I ended up taking time off to write. For this project, I spent hours in the registry of deeds in Cambridge. What I wanted to do is take each of these, as I called them, ‘outdoor museums,’ and find the very first settler of these properties. Then I discovered the original grant for the properties and traced that through to the time when the Conservation Commission protected that land forever.

Originally they were big, big, lots of land. They were eventually broken up, and different owners had different uses. I went to the Town Clerk’s office, and I found who had how many cows, how many oxen, and even a listing of slaves (which there really weren’t many slaves in Lexington). The Town Clerk’s office has all that. I’d trace back every exchange of property, and get to know what the property looked like. I’d look at old photos, I talked to hundreds of people who were around or remembered people who were around going back to the 1920s, ’30s. [Larry] Whipple, one of the guys who was a part of the Historical Society, had done these wonderful interviews, and they were all on tape. I listened to every one of them!

I started to piece together everything that happened on these properties with the idea that it was these land uses that created their character. And so for instance, you go to Paint Mine—that was a place where they manufactured the paint that painted some of the houses in Lexington. It was an old ochre mine. There were old muskrat dens there. That’s a defining feature of that property. The Great Meadows was a peat bog. Peat was a big deal when wood ran out. And that defines why that place looks as it does. Similar to Dunback Meadow, which also had peat bogs.

Then there’s Whipple Hill and the old Fairlawn Nursing Home. Originally the guy who owned the Parker house in Boston, he put his mistress up there when his wife was sick, and she owned that place. These fascinating stories are all documented in the book.

Most people aren’t aware that Lexington was once a summer resort destination for Bostonians anxious to escape the city heat. Quite a few of the estates were built as summer homes.

Yes, I wrote a book also about Horn Pond in Woburn, and that was another destination for Boston people who wanted to go out to the country. There was also a trolley that went out to Benson’s Animal Park [on Bedford Street in Lexington], and that [park] was a destination for recreation. Eventually, Bensons moved up to Hudson, New Hampshire, and it became an even bigger thing.

So, there’s all these pieces that I think make Lexington so interesting as a town—above and beyond the Revolution. There was even a mysterious death when they were digging the Old Res! That’s in the book. Race tracks were big. I have a photo of a sulky track on Middleby Road. That was very popular. Some crazy stuff happened in town, so I wanted to take all this information and put it all together into one book. You can take the book and walk the properties and stand there and go, ‘Wow, this is what happened in this place.’

Each wave of immigration also brought something new to Lexington.

Yes, this was interesting; I do talk about this in the book. There was a family that wanted to move to Lexington when the Protestants ran Lexington. They refused to sell to the Catholics, so the Catholics would hire what they called ‘the straw buyer’—someone who would step in and buy a property—someone acceptable to the Protestants, and that’s how they came in. So you had all these Irish coming into East Lexington the 1860s.

And then, in the 1900s, the Italians like the Busas came in and started farming. There were also numerous pig farmers, and the pig farmers were the garbage men! When the piggeries came in, the old line Lexington gentleman farmers hated it because it started to stink. And the furriers too, that was another industry that was not looked too well on. The well-known Robbins family of East Lexington were furriers.

When I started putting all this together, I suddenly I had a 370-page book! My, now, ex-wife [Tara Dickison], did all the maps. We did it all by hand, just going around each property. I would do hundreds of walks. I was so afraid that the Lexington Historical Society wouldn’t like this book coming out because they had this pristine view of Lexington as this noble town that played a big part in the Revolution. But they were very generous, and they provided a lot of information. I did go to Concord in order to try to place the book to sell there, and this older woman looked at me, and she said, “You take your Lexington book back to Lexington.” In ’95, I sold thousands of these books, and I did hundreds of talks. People in Lexington just loved their local history.

One of the other things that I added to the book, and I kept in the revision, was a marvelous listing of the birds in Lexington written by John Andrews a long-time Lexington resident and birder. I put that into the book, and I added a few things to it. It’s a nice piece for anybody interested in birding.
I had the book printed appropriately by the Minuteman Press, and they did a nice job. I added some new information and photos.

Are you still writing books or columns?

I just finished an extensive 600-page book on Wildlife Pond, which is up at Beaver Brook in Hollis, New Hampshire. And it’s basically the whole history— birds, plants, and everything that happens throughout the year. I do nature photography too, so that book has a lot of my nature photography. And, then I’ve written a novel. I am one of those guys who has to write. Maybe one day, when I retire, I’ll start to publish and sell those things seriously, but for now, it’s just a fun diversion.

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Pandemic Pups

                                                                Zane

 

By Cindy Atoji Keene

 

Of course, there’s a dog named Kennedy in Lexington. And pups named Fenway, Boston, Fig Newton, and Sox. There must also be many owners who like food, as other dog names in town include Hashbrown, Cucumber, Tofu, Creampuff, Maple Sugar, Marzipan, Noodles, Clementine, Juice, and 14 dogs named Cookie.

Perhaps the longest dog name we saw on the town clerk’s list was Maximillian Sir Pugs A Lot (imagine calling that in a dog park). And the most popular dog’s name in Lexington? Looks like it might be the 40 or so dogs named Charlie.

Abbey to Zuzu, the 2114 dogs licensed in Lexington last year are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole, as the quote goes. “Dogs are one of our purest loving relationships; they are just so eager to connect and love and please. We share a very particular intimacy with dogs,” said psychologist Amy Briggs Bledsoe who shares her Frost Road home with her family and dog Maisy, part Jack Russell Terrier, dachshund, mini pinscher, and a mix of other breeds.

It was Bledsoe who got the idea to form a Facebook group just for dog owners during the height of the pandemic. She had moved to Lexington and found it a very dog-friendly town, but there was no dedicated social media site for the community of dog owners. If a dog was lost, or neighbors had questions about vets, leashes, or dog food, they had to ask on other town forums.

So she started chatting with fellow dog owner Cindy Savage about forming a Facebook group simply called Lexington Dog Owners Group. The group now has over 800 members in less than three months and is a resource for everything from dog adoption, pet food recalls, free crates, groomers, coyote sightings, flea collars, dog ophthalmologists, and much more. What to do about a carsick dog? Or a sheepadoodle who gets the zoomies, or a lost dog?

The Lexington Dog Owners Group especially coalesced around a dog named Zane, who escaped from his owner in February. Zane had just been brought up to Lexington by a Texas rescue organization and was in the process of being adopted when he got spooked and ran into the woods. For almost a week, Zane was spotted running around Lower Vinebrook and attempts to lure him were in vain. Missing Dogs of Massachusetts, a non-profit organization that works to locate missing dogs, got involved and some volunteers even went door to door with flyers, asking others to help find the dog. Zane’s story stirred people who were worried about the dog shivering in the winter cold with no shelter. Savage, who was actively involved in Zane’s rescue, said she even had strangers coming up to her in the grocery store, asking, “What’s going on with Zane? Is he okay?”

Amy Briggs Bledsoe with Maisy and Cynthia Savage with Prince. Both dogs are rescues. COURTESY PHOTO

The capture of Zane was almost made for the movies; it was so serendipitous. There were many Zane sightings, and then amazingly, Zane approached a woman walking her dog Rudy in Lower Vinebrook. She knew it was Zane but didn’t have a collar, but her husband happened to look down, and amazingly, someone had left a collar and leash right there on the ground. Zane was captured and adopted by another family, and the Zane saga ended. And yet, it didn’t because the whole episode brought the Lexington Dog Owners Group Facebook group even closer together.

But there’s another angle to this story, one that ties Lexington to southern states like Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, as well as Caribbean countries like Aruba and even overseas in places like Qatar. These are all locations where homeless dogs are rescued, transported to the U.S., and then adopted by families, including here in Lexington. Savage, for one, had never known the joys of owning a dog until she adopted one from a shelter; then, completely enamored, she began looking for ways to help abandoned dogs in other countries. When she and her family traveled to Aruba for vacation a few years ago, they brought home four puppies in carry-ons, who all found new homes in the area. There are also dogs in town who might have formally been street dogs in places like Turkey, Puerto Rico, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Saudi Arabia, and more. In most developing nations, only about 5 percent of dogs have owners in the Western sense, compared to 95 percent in the U.S., according to reports from the Humane Society of America. The rest are strays who rely on handouts, or ferals who feed at landfills, vacant lots, or slaughterhouse waste piles. Potcake dogs from the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, for example, are a familiar sight in Lexington; a name given because locals feed the caked remains of a cooking pot to the dogs. The dogs typically look like a mix of hound, mastiff, spaniel, terrier, or retriever and are typically smart, loyal, and loving.

In Lexington, as across the country, there was a pandemic puppy boom during the pandemic. COVID-19 lockdowns spurred a scramble to secure canine companionship to fill the void. The Lexington Dog Owners Facebook group reflected the boom in dog ownership. Many new puppy parents posted questions and photos, including pictures of dogs napping during Zoom calls. One overwhelmed dog owner wrote, “Anyone else out there totally love their new fur baby, but also overwhelmed by the demands of their new puppy?!” She wanted to commiserate with other pet parents, but did she have regrets? Absolutely none.

For Bledsoe, whose clinical psychology practice in Cambridge has been booming during these ruff (pun intended) times, it has been a relief to be able to come home to her four-legged friend. “The pandemic has been so painful and isolating, and to be able to come together around the love of dogs and share with others who have that passion has been extra special during this time which is otherwise so dark,” she said.

No doubt the dog community in Lexington will continue to grow, and maybe even someday, the town will get a dog park. In the meantime, according to the list of names maintained by the town clerk, there is even a dog in town named Lexington. But dog owners, take note: there’s no dog named Massachusetts! Maybe it’s time to name your new pup after our beloved Bay State.

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Hoofer at Heart

Thelma Goldberg

Thelma Goldberg loves the math and the magic of tap.

By Cindy Atoji Keene

A dancer who is an academic might seem like an oxymoron. But that’s only if you haven’t met Thelma Larkin Goldberg, Ph.D., who just received her doctor of philosophy from Lesley University last March. The accomplished tap dancer was defending her dissertation just as the pandemic hit, and while others were cleaning out their offices and rushing to go home, she conferred with her advisor in the barren building. As the state and city shut down, Goldberg never was able to attend a cap and gown ceremony nor the symbolic hooding, but her advanced degree affirmed what everyone who is acquainted with this tousled hair spunky blonde realizes: Goldberg knows her stuff.

Goldberg’s dance studio, the Dance Inn, is a fixture in Lexington, located on the bottom level of the Monroe Center for the Arts on Massachusetts Avenue. With 400-500 students a year, tens of thousands of dancers have waltzed through the Dance Inn classes for over four decades, learning tap, jazz and ballet, hip hop, and adaptive dancing.

But despite her dance business and its numerous productions – recitals, performances, parades, competitions – Goldberg is at heart a tap dancer. Tap dance, rather than just a style of dance, has a complex history with an African American narrative intertwined through its rich origins. While tap dancing today seems to be a lost art featured only in old, grainy black and white movies like Singing in the Rain, Goldberg has centered her life and career around using her body and feet for percussion.

Goldberg would be the first to admit that she doesn’t have a typical petite and diminutive dancer’s body. “I was never raised to see dance as a career,” she said, standing in the living room of her Ledgelawn house. She doesn’t have tap shoes on but demonstrates shuffles and ball changes, brushing lightly against the hardwood floor. “Teachers encouraged me to be excellent in dancing but said, ‘you have to go to college and pursue other things.’” She danced and taught while she earned her degree and was an educator in Boston. But she wanted to take a break, and her husband, Stephen “Goldie” Goldberg, an accountant, agreed that they could open their home, then a small Cape on Hill Street, to students. They moved all the furniture out of their front room, and while the young dancers sang, “I’m a little teapot, short and stout,” Goldie’s tax clients laughed in his adjacent office.

Thus Dance Inn was born, a blur of students, teachers, and recitals. Lexington, said Goldberg, was a perfect place for her studio because the town is clearly dedicated to arts and education. Lexington, as well, is a community of intellectuals and Goldberg’s cerebral approach to dance fits right in. “In order for tap dance to become more relevant in today’s dance world, teaching training programs should be designed to include ‘how’ and why’ to teach tap history and music theory,” she said. Goldberg considers tap-dancing very mathematical, with order and pattern sequences. “I love thinking about rhythm, breaking it down into quarter notes, 16th notes, triplets. Am I swinging or standing? How long can I hold a silence? How many notes fit in a phrase and stay with the choreography or movement I’m trying to express?” Goldberg, who has written two instructional books about tap education, also has an active social media presence, with a YouTube tap dance channel and tap notes blog, and more.

Perhaps the most significant measure of a dance studio’s success is its impact on its students. Countless numbers of Dance Inn trainees have gone onto have their lives changed by dancing. Goldberg’s own children, Sebastian and Robin, are professional dancers. Ryan Casey, a Spanish teacher at Lexington High School, began at the Dance Inn when he was five and went on to become a choreographer, dance journalist, and nationally recognized dancer. “Goldberg puts tap at the forefront of her school, whereas most schools do that with ballet. Putting rhythm-based dancing in the lead is very unconventional,” said Casey.

Goldberg is 68 now, and as tap dancing can be demanding on the back, knees, and feet, she has suffered her share of injuries. Her beloved husband Goldie passed away three years ago from cancer, and she often cries as she dances alone in her living room to songs like Better than Anything by Natalie Cole and Diana Krall. The pandemic has hit the Dance Inn, making it impossible to hold student’s hands while she’s teaching them steps and forcing her to purchase microphones so students can hear instructors through their masks. Portable tap dance floors make it possible to have classes outside, and Zoom sessions have become indispensable.

But does Goldberg have any plans to retire? Absolutely not. Her dance adventures are only just beginning, she says. “I still have too much to do.” Her father, an avid ballroom dancer, didn’t stop dancing till he was 92, and she plans to follow in his footsteps and beyond.

She walks over to her brightly painted stand-up desk, customized for her. Her library – books on tap dancing America; tap dance dictionary; steppin’ blues; vaudeville and jazz bands – perch nearby. Goldberg sees tap dance as having a renaissance lately, with developments and improvisation; she’s having conversations with other experts about the assimilation of tap dance and its musical history, as well as teaching and philosophy. “The integration of music with movement can be an academic experience,” she says. Dancer academian? Hardly an oxymoron when it comes to Goldberg!

 

 


The Dance Inn

1403 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, MA 02420

Phone: (781) 863-5360

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What’s So Great About the Lexington Education Foundation?

Why LEF is a critical part of school success in Lexington, and how you can help.


In partnership with Lexington Public Schools, the Lexington Education Foundation provides grant opportunities to encourage innovation and inspire joy in teaching and life-long learning.LEF invites all community members to participate in its mission.

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

After the schools closed down last spring, Amy Ryan joined the board of the Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) as Communications VP. A mother of four— with children at Estabrook Elementary, Diamond Middle School, and Lexington High—Ryan works full-time in public relations. Like many modern families, especially those raising multiple children, the Ryan household has a lot of moving parts. Pre-Covid, she and her husband were happy to donate money to LEF every year and drop off the occasional tray of bagels for an event.

But then, as Ryan explained, Covid changed everything.

THE LEF BOARD MEETS VIRTUALLY

“I started to attend virtual School Committee meetings and to see the struggles teachers were dealing with,” she recalled. “With four kids in school, I realized I could use my skill set to spread the good word about LEF. For me, the most meaningful thing to do was join this board, work with teachers directly, and work with the grants that really make positive impact.”

Ryan said she has quickly come to realize how this investment of her time and expertise contribute to feelings of connection to the schools and the town. “It’s a sense of community. For someone who has kids in multiple schools across the spectrum [from elementary to high school], it helped me feel better connected to all the schools at the same time, rather than spend a few hours in each one, here and there.

“The LEF board is also a bunch of really smart, sophisticated people,” Ryan continued. “Even though it’s virtual right now, they help me ‘up my game.’ I love the interaction, and I think we help each other to be better and stronger. We all kind of need that these days.”

LEF Co-President Raquel Leder agrees that being connected to the whole school district is a major benefit of involvement in the Lexington Education Foundation. Leder’s main focus as a board member is grant administration, which she finds both exciting and fulfilling, but the rewards of learning about what lies ahead for her three children have been invaluable as they transition through the grades.

“It can seem scary and daunting and you’re wondering how your kids will handle it,” Leder said. “The people involved with LEF help you understand what’s happening at the next level before your kids get there— which is exciting and cool and supportive.”

Co-President Patrice Cleaves, also a mother of three, became involved with LEF because she wanted to use her marketing skills and because she sees LEF as a way to “spread your wings” to help the entire school community. “I purposely didn’t join the PTO at Estabrook School because I found my skill set better suited to serving the district-at-large,” Cleaves said. “It’s been really great to be a part of LEF because you connect with the kids, you talk to teachers. you see and hear the emotions in their voices when they talk about the grants.”

One of the ways LEF connects directly with students is through the organization’s Student Ambassadors program, whose participants can attend board meetings and review grant applications submitted by teachers, administrators, and staff. Cleaves expressed deep appreciation for the students that participate in the Ambassador program: “[They] are the most well-spoken, smart group of kids. I’m always in awe of them. Their questions are really eloquent. They are a credit to the Lexington Public Schools.”

SOME BACKGROUND ON LEF

As expressed on its website, the Lexington Education Foundation “is a community-based nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that raises financial support from families and businesses in Lexington to fund exceptional educational activities that address the Lexington Public Schools’ priorities but fall outside the scope of the LPS budget…. Since 1989, LEF has awarded more than $5 million for activities designed to enrich the learning experience and strengthen the achievement of every student in every Lexington public school.”

LEF’s stated mission is: “To bring the community together to build and sustain the excellence of Lexington public schools. To support exceptional educational activities in all Lexington Public Schools. To bring innovative instruction and new technologies into Lexington’s classrooms. To support faculty’s professional learning. To help our schools build strong, student-centered learning communities that inspire and engage every student to reach their greatest potential.” Co-President Leder puts it this way: “At the center— and why I love LEF— are the grants. They help our students by helping our teachers, administrators, and staff. Everything we do builds around the grants so it was only natural— when Covid came in— to find a way to help through grant-giving.”

RISING TO THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGED EDUCATIONAL LANDSCAPE, PART ONE

Pre-Covid, LEF awarded $250,000 in grants each year in three different categories:

• School Community Grants which provide equal dollar amounts to each school for principals to use at their discretion for innovation and creativity initiatives;
• Fellowship Grants which provide access to funds for professional development/learning;
• Program Grants that a group of teachers can apply for to develop or expand programming.

LEF’s ability to fund grants is derived from a number of sources: direct donations from parents and other community members; appreciation recognitions called STAR Awards; corporate and small business sponsorships; Trivia Bee, Celebration for Education, and other events.

Once Covid caused the schools to close down—and not incidentally sidelined LEFs revenue-producing events—the Board realized it needed to evaluate the district’s needs, and LEF’s ability to meet them, in a changed landscape. Leder explained it was at this juncture that LEF re-committed its pledge to award $250,000 in 2020-21, no matter what the year brought.

The first order of business, then, was to create a new Covid Response grant category which has a rapid approval turnaround of two weeks, rather than the usual, far longer grant cycle.

To this initiative, LEF dedicated $100,000 of the $250,000. So far, about half of the $100,000 has been awarded. Examples of grants given include two from the elementary schools that are math-related and intended to support early learners as they acquire essential foundational skills via off-screen activities, such as math puzzles and tactile manipulatives.

Another grant— awarded to a Diamond School Science teacher— enables students to “travel” to Europa, one of the moons of the planet Jupiter. In this activity, students focus on teamwork, problem-solving, communication, and decision making: skills that directly connect to Science curriculum standards for the grade level.

RISING TO THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGED EDUCATIONAL LANDSCAPE, PART TWO

LEF’s second Covid-related effort started this past December/January. It piggy-backs on the saliva surveillance pool-testing initiative originally spearheaded by the Wellesley Education Foundation for the Wellesley Public Schools.

According to an interview with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Julie Hackett, published in the January/February Colonial Times Magazine, the saliva testing pool model makes it possible to offer screening to a greater number of people at a fraction of the cost of individualized testing. Lexington’s program is voluntary and tests are self-administered. This program focuses solely on middle school and high school students and has been extended past the original 8-weeks, due not only to the arrival of new virus strains but also to the success of identifying several asymptomatic cases, which allowed the Schools to quickly isolate affected individuals and avoid community spread.

An elementary school program will begin in early March so that kindergarten through second-grade students may return to in-person learning during the month of April.

For Lexington, the cost of the original saliva-testing program for the middle and high school populations is $229,000. LEF is partnering with the district to help defray the expense; to that end, LEF has established a fundraising campaign separate from either its regular grant program or the Covid Response grant program.

Of the $229,000, LEF has raised $55,000. Superintendent Hackett, reported in the CTM interview that the district has also filed paperwork to take advantage of funding offered through Governor Baker’s new nasal swabbing program, although the outcome of that request is unknown at this time.

Whatever the final cost is, the LEF board members say that the organization stands ready to help as much as possible because, as Co-President Cleaves said, surveillance testing provides protection and comfort for teachers, parents, and students.

DONATE, PARTICIPATE

The Lexington Education Foundation website provides more information on LEFs various programs, how to become active in the organization, and how to donate to any/all its initiatives, including the STAR, CONSTELLATION, and GALAXY appreciation awards. A recipient of these appreciation awards can be anyone in the community who merits recognition— not only teachers, staff, administrators but also business owners and employees, Town Government volunteers and staff, medical workers, child care providers, etc.

Leder, Cleaves, and Ryan want to extend a warm welcome to anyone who wants to help with LEF’s efforts. There is always a need, they say. Roles and tasks of all kinds on LEF’s board and committees are designed to suit all levels of interest or availability. Specific areas include event support, school liaisons, fundraising, communications, social media, partnerships, advisory, resource development.

Leder also noted that LEF has engaged in deeper thinking about the organization this year: what it wants to do and what it wants to be going forward. “If someone cares passionately about their children’s education and they want to help the community, LEF is a great place to be,” Leder said. “A lot of people are feeling the pain of what we’ve been going through. Voicing disappointment does nothing. If you channel that energy and desire for things to get better, there’s hope. “We really want to reach out more and have LEF look more like what Lexington looks like as a community,” she continued. “We want to bring more diversity into the organization. We have so many opportunities, at all levels, from a few hours to a bigger commitment. All skills are welcome. Everyone belongs here.”


www.lexedfoundation.org

Everyone is welcome!

 

 

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Beating the Pandemic Blues: Three Stories of Hope and Resilience from Lexington Musicians

Noah Harrington, a jazz bassist, composer and arranger with Maurizio Fiore Salas, a guitarist and Venezuelan cuatro player. Together they are Noah y Maurizio. The two musicians met at Berklee College of Music.

 

By Jane Whitehead


For musicians worldwide, the outlook changed brutally in March 2020 as COVID-19 shuttered venues, cancelled gigs, and raised a gigantic question mark over the future of live music. We heard from three professional musicians with strong Lexington ties how they rode out a rollercoaster year, and what it takes to hold on to their artistic vision and find inspiration at a time of radical uncertainty.

Noah y Maurizio Wins Iguana Music Fund Grant

In December 2020, the Boston-based string band Noah y Maurizio was among 24 New England-based musical groups to be awarded an Iguana Music Fund grant by Passim in Cambridge. For band co-founder Noah Harrington, a jazz bassist, composer and arranger, the $2000 grant was a welcome boost at the end of a challenging year.

In a recent conversation, Harrington, a 2015 Lexington High School (LHS) graduate and prize-winning alum of the LHS Jazz Combo, described the joy and frustration of melding an international group of youthful virtuoso string players into something like a musical family, only to have everyone “scattered to the cosmic winds” from Minnesota to Brazil by the global pandemic.
Noah y Maurizio evolved out of friendships and musical collaborations Harrington formed at Berklee College of Music, and at the prestigious Acoustic Music Seminar at the Savannah Music Festival. Maurizio is Maurizio Fiore Salas, a guitarist and Venezuelan cuatro player, composer and arranger. (The cuatro is a Venezuelan folk stringed instrument in the guitar family.)

Harrington and Fiore Salas met while studying jazz composition at Berklee and exploring their shared interest in mixing traditional and contemporary music of North and South America. At the Acoustic Music Seminar in 2018, Harrington was enthralled by the musicianship of cellist Parker Ousely and Canadian fiddler Clara Rose.

Rose’s visit to Boston in February 2019 was the catalyst for a week of intense rehearsal with Harrington, Fiore Salas and Ousely, together with prize-winning mandolinist Ethan Setiawan and Brazilian guitarist João Perrusi. “In a little under a week the group was born,” said Harrington. “The chemistry just felt so good when we started playing together.”

Following a bunch of successful gigs, the group recorded an entire album of new material, released with the title Acoustic Travelogue in March 2020, and praised by cellist Mike Block as “an inspiring display of brilliant solo and ensemble playing, as well as beautiful tune writing and arranging.”

Recreating that chemistry to create a second album is Harrington’s priority. He’s currently raising funds to add to the Iguana Fund grant, to cover the costs of bringing the group together again for a week of intensive recording in May at a studio in the Maine woods, with appropriate COVID-testing and quarantining measures. (Since Rose’s return to Canada the crucial fiddler’s role has been filled by bluegrass virtuoso Sofia Chiarandini, he noted.)

The concept for the album is for “a composer/performers’ collective” with everyone contributing compositions. Harrington is prepared to back the project with his life savings if necessary. “I really believe in the vision of what we’re doing,” he said. “I believe in the players and I believe we can make art that is meaningful and that can help a lot of people in this time.”

Lorelei Marcell – Solo Singer-Songwriter, Heading West

Above: Lorelei Marcell, a Lexington senior and solo vocal artist will be heading to LA after graduation to pursue her career in music.

“I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember,” said pop singer-songwriter Lorelei Marcell, 18, a Lexington High School senior with a serious online fan-base (52,000 followers on Instagram, over 500,000 streams on Spotify), and a professional management team based in Los Angeles, where she hopes to build the next stage of her career.

That ambition is no pipedream. Marcell has worked with professional managers since she turned 16. Her collaborations and friendships with established musicians and producers have resulted in a half-dozen professionally produced music videos released on YouTube.

Her first release of 2020 was “Dreamin About You,” described on the music review website neonmusic.co.uk as “a catchy pop anthem steeped in nostalgia” with “polished confident vocals” from Marcell, who co-wrote the song with Valerie Broussard, Stefan Litrownik, and her song-writing friend and producer Shannon McArthur.

As COVID struck in March, Marcell admits that her usual optimism was dented. “That was like an ‘oh gosh, what am I going to do?’ moment,” she said, “because no artist has ever experienced this before, especially when they’re up and coming and trying to get their name out there.”

She decided to amp-up her social media presence, live-streaming several gigs over the summer and going ahead with the August release of her latest single “Eyes Closed,” co-written with British-born Grammy-nominated songwriter-singer and producer James Abrahart (JHart), who has written for Justin Bieber, Keith Urban, and Usher. That connection came through Shannon McArthur, who was once Abrahart’s roommate, noted Marcell.

Although Marcell has reached her largest audience online, she has always enjoyed live performance. From age 10, she’s sung at open mics, performed at local Lexington benefits, and entertained diners in restaurants from Boston to Concord. One thing that COVID has taken away, she said, is the biggest thrill of singing live: “that intimate connection with people you don’t know, people you’ll probably never meet again.”

The pandemic did however give Marcell and her friend and frequent accompanist David Moore a unique live gig experience. Thanks to a contact of Moore’s, they were invited to perform for patients and frontline health care workers at the Boston Hope Hospital, a temporary field hospital set up at the Boston Convention Center in mid-April to care for COVID-19 positive homeless adults, in a line-up that included Alicia Keys and Yo-Yo Ma.

Marcell credits the choral program at Lexington High School with supporting her development as a well-rounded performer. Although “it’s very different from what I do in my own career,” she said, singing with the school’s renowned chamber chorus, Lexington High School Madrigal Singers, affectionately known as “Mads,” has opened up “a whole new world of musicianship.”

After finishing high school in May, Marcell plans to move to LA in September to pursue her solo career full-time “in the hub of everything.” The prospect of moving to a new city is both scary and exciting, she said, especially with the wild card of COVID thrown in. But pandemic or no, her goal is clear: “I want to have as many people as possible listen to my music and hear what I have to say. There’s a lot that comes with that, but I’m so ready for the challenge,” she said.

Music of Hope and Defiance – Lizzy and The Triggermen

Singer-songwriter Lizzy Shapiro grew up in Lexington and counts LHS drama and music teachers Steve Bogart and Brian McConnell as mentors. She fronts the ten-piece band Lizzy and the Triggermen and is based in Los Angeles.

With a growing reputation as one of the hottest swing bands in Los Angeles, noted in Elmore Magazine for the “powerhouse vocals and femme fatale swagger” of its leader, singer-songwriter Lizzy Shapiro, the ten-piece band Lizzy and the Triggermen anticipated a banner year in 2020.

Shapiro’s team of seasoned jazz musicians includes virtuoso trombonist/arranger Dan Barrett, who collaborated with Benny Goodman, and over the last two years, the band’s packed live dance shows at storied LA venues including the Wiltern, the El Rey and the Troubadour have gained rave reviews and a devoted following.

“We had our biggest year yet scheduled by February 2020,” said Shapiro, speaking by phone from her home in Los Angeles. Back then, the band was prepping for the annual South by Southwest festival held every March in Austin, Texas, and for a cluster of gigs around the launch of their first album, Good Songs for Bad Times, including a New York City debut at The Cutting Room.

On March 6, 2020, Shapiro was driving to San Francisco with the band’s instruments and bandstands for a big show at City Hall, when her phone lit up with texts announcing the cancellation of everything. “By the end of that week it was pretty clear we were not going to do any of the things we were planning on doing for the year,” she said.

After initially deciding to hold back the release of the album – written and recorded pre-pandemic – Shapiro was struck by how eerily prescient one track now sounded. Her composition “Dance Song (For the End of the World)” starts with a foot-tapping beat under a British male voice sampled from an archival BBC Radio World War II broadcast announcing: “All gatherings for purposes of entertainment and amusement are prohibited until further notice.”

The parallel was too striking to ignore, said Shapiro. So she and the band decided to release the album in May 2020 and produced a music video to go with it. They reached out to artists in 15 countries, from Argentina to Vietnam, with one instruction: “Film yourself dancing at home.” The resulting music video went viral, and Good Songs for Bad Times reached #3 on the iTunes Top 40 US Jazz Albums chart.

“I don’t know that that song would have resonated with so many people if we’d released it at any other time,” said Shapiro, who grew up in Lexington and whose early mentors included inspirational drama and music teachers Steve Bogart and Brian McConnell at LHS. She studied music and comedy at Yale, and trained as an opera singer before moving to the West Coast in 2005 where she made a name as a comedy writer, producer and actor, creating and starring in an Emmy-nominated TV show for the History Channel, The Crossroads of History, 2016.

That background in film and TV now enables Shapiro and the band to bring Hollywood production values to virtual events from live-streaming gigs to corporate and private parties worldwide. “That’s a space I’m really excited about,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro finds hope in the Depression-era music from which the band takes its inspiration. “There’s a kind of defiance and hope that emerged from the music in response to what was happening in society,” she said. Uncertain as the future of live performance is at present, she sees another cause for optimism in the longing for human connection awoken by the pandemic.

“It’s easy to take something for granted when there’s no fear of it going away,” she said, so “when it’s safe to gather again and do live shows, there’s a hope that people will be really hungry for that in a way they weren’t before.” And surely that’s a hope shared by performers of all stripes, all over the world.


To learn more and hear their music, follow these performers online:

NOAH y MAURIZO
noahymaurizio.com
instagram.com/noahharringtonbass
facebook.com/NoahHarringtonMusic
LORELEI MARCELL
Instagram: @loreleimarcell
Spotify/Apple Music etc: Lorelei Marcell
LIZZY AND THE TRIGGERMEN
Lizzyandthetriggermen.com
Instagram: @lizzyandthetriggermen

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The 11th Biennial State Of Clay At LexArt

The 11th biennial State of Clay is a juried show, showcasing original and innovative ceramic work. Current and former residents of Massachusetts are eligible to apply. The show aims to broaden public awareness of contemporary ceramic art, and to provide a venue for Massachusetts’ clay artists. The juried entries showcase a wide array of ceramics, which highlight a variety of building styles, firing techniques and clay types.

Our artists are educators, studio potters, established professionals, and emerging artists who have found clay to be a malleable medium that has inspired them to seek the best of themselves in their presentations.

The show is hosted by the Ceramic Guild of LexArt (formerly known as the Lexington Arts & Crafts Society) in Lexington, MA. Juror Julia Galloway will choose pieces for awards. The Artists’ Reception will be virtual, due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Julia Galloway is a potter who creates utilitarian work, and is a professor at the School of Visual and Media Arts, College of Arts and Media, University of Montana (Missoula). She was raised in Boston, and received her BFA at the NY State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, and an MFA at the University of Colorado (Boulder). She is currently a Director at Large for the National Council for the Education of Ceramic Arts (NCECA). Her work has been included in numerous journals and books. Julia has had numerous solo shows, and is part of several museum collections, including the Smithsonian Museum, the Renwick Museum, and

The Huntington Museum of Art among others. We are thrilled that she agreed to jury this year’s show.

The Lexington Arts & Crafts Society was founded in 1935 as a non- profit regional education center dedicated to the preservation and promotion of excellence in both traditional and contemporary arts & crafts. Last year, the organization was renamed LexArt. Each year, it holds a variety of exhibits in the Parsons Gallery, providing year-round space for members and outside groups to exhibit and sell their work. LexArt is composed of nine Guilds, most of which offer classes and workshops throughout the year.
Currently there are 38 members in the Ceramics Guild, which maintains a fully equipped studio with 5 kilns. LexArt has roughly 300 members and offers over 100 courses in various arts and crafts throughout the year taught by both Guild members and outside professional artists and craftspeople


The show runs from May 15 thru June 13, 2021.
Exhibit Hours Wed/Thurs/Fri 12-4, Saturday & Sunday 10-5
Virtual Artist Reception May 23 from 5:30 – 6:30

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