By: Rebecca LaPole
On a dark, dead-end dirt road in Fort Collins, Colorado, a sweet couple of neighbors, their evening lantern-lit walks, and their love story inspired a quartet of ladies to name their string band Lois and the Lantern. Although they used to joke when asked, “Which one of you is Lois?” and say things like, “she’s in Bermuda,” or “she’s traveling the world,” the truth is they are keeping Lois alive. Her widower Rick just happens to be one of their biggest fans, and even jammed with them on a Neil Young tune a couple months ago.
These four Colorado ladies, Saja Butler (banjo, guitar, ukulele, and vocals), Theresa Brodzinski (guitar, harmonica, banjo, trumpet, vocals), Tara Lynne Sparks (bass), and Mary Merritt (mandolin, vocals), organically found their love of playing stringed instruments together in 2014.
Mary and Theresa were neighbors and began playing in backyards together where Theresa hosted a monthly women’s jam night that was deemed the Clam Jam. Tara was lucky enough to be Saja’s neighbor and picked up the bass, having Saja help her learn to play it. The two of them showed up to what had become the Clam and Man Jam, “we allowed sausages every once in awhile,” Tara said, and eventually, they felt like they had enough songs to play and share.
Their first show was at Starry Night as a trio on a first Friday, and Mary said, “It was super fun!” Saja agreed with her thought; “We kick ass man!” At that time Mary and Theresa were calling her special guest Saja Butler, but she quickly asked, “Can I be in the band?” Theresa was stoked because she had been wanting to ask her to join, but kept thinking, “Don’t scare her away!” Tara joined and added in the bottom end which really filled in the sound. Theresa said, “It was really an A-ha! moment when Tara joined,” and Tara was a little nervous because she said, “I didn’t know the names of the frets!”
While the spunky ladies of the upbeat string quartet Lois and the Lantern like to joke, a lot, they also help make our world a better place by volunteering, giving back, helping others, and sharing their love of music (and whiskey). Mary said, “Everybody in the band is very giving.”
Mary owns a digital marketing and app development company called Nerdy Mind which she opened in 2011, she created a website called HelptheBVI.com, to make it easy for folks to donate to the Convoy of Hope which delivers water and other aid to the British Virgin Islands, which they desperately needed after Hurricane Irma. “My team and I packed up the planes with the owner of Otterbox, who used his private jets to load up and get supplies to the BVI. We also donate ten hrs/month to the United Way and we give our employees paid volunteer time off.”
Theresa loves animals and said, “I help out shelter dogs. I foster them, and I’m currently helping a shelter in southern CO who doesn’t have a lot of resources, bringing dogs up here, to bridge that gap and to get the animals to where the resources are for them.” If you’re looking for a way you can help, Theresa said, “Anybody can volunteer and anybody can donate.”
Tara, as you may know if you read our cover on her in February, is a music teacher for kids, runs the Kids Music Adventure at NewWestFest each year, and she inspires kids through the Little Kids Rock program and through Junior Broadcasters. Tara said, “Music is powerful. It’s changed my life.”
Urban Monk Studios is Saja’s way of giving back, and she said, “It’s like an atmosphere of peace, where people can just be themselves for half an hour, and live and play. They can unfold gently in a sacred space. If they have that, especially adults, they can come and then go home and transfer that vibe. I’m hoping it’s a domino effect for them to be an example.” Saja wants to offer them the confidence that, “Anybody can do anything anytime. It’s a great time to be alive on Earth!”
Lois and the Lantern has about 50 combined years of talent. They create a diverse musical infusion of genres including bluegrass, blues, folk, rock, punk, and pop. These styles are all coming together with an all original five song EP being recorded at the Acoustic Ranch with Larry Lewis in Laporte, with an expected release in January. Don’t miss their upcoming shows in Fort Collins this month!