The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library
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The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Folk Acoustic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos




For a while, all Michael J. Epstein knew was that his life was one deserving commemoration.

It struck him one day as he wandered the halls of the Ronald Reagan memorial building in Washington, D.C., Epstein, a staunch conservative and lifelong admirer of the Gipper (okay, not really) paused for a drink from the Ronald Reagan memorial water fountain. He threw a tissue into the Ronald Reagan memorial wastebasket. He washed his hands using the Ronald Reagan memorial soap dispenser. Suddenly, it was all so clear.

“I thought, ‘Someday I will have a project that I will call the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Something,” he says.

Last year, Epstein decided that he would be denied his memorial no longer, despite the notable handicap of not being dead yet. Given that he was now a professor of audiology at Northeastern and that his wife/drummer Sophia Cacciola was employed at the Tufts University Library, it seemed only fitting for the bookish bandleader to call his new group the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library.

If the name has you expecting a bunch of sweater-clad eggheads playing musical essays about obscure novelists, you are drastically underestimating the weirdness of Epstein and Cacciola. Epstein is in a ukulele-only tribute to indie legends Neutral Milk Hotel (Neutral Uke Hotel) and the two also have a band called Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, whose songs are all based on ‘60s spy-themed TV show The Prisoner.

Michael had a fairly specific vision in mind as he began building his Library: an all-female lineup (plus himself) with lots of instruments but no electric guitars.

“Honestly, I’m kind of sick of guitars,” he says. “And there really aren’t enough women in bands that are heavily involved in arranging and writing parts. Usually you see a woman in a band and she’s singing or playing bass or something and it feels kind of tacked on in a lot of cases.”

By July, the Library had a staff of six women (plus Epstein and Cacciola), many of whom had little or no recent experience performing in rock bands. This was not by accident. In fact, he was willing to go to somewhat great lengths to demolish any pre-conceived notions his new bandmates might have held.

“I walked in [to the first rehearsal] expecting to play keyboard,” recalls Jane Allard, who had been out of music for the last couple of years while working as manager at a software company.

“Mike hands me a melodica and a glockenspiel and says ‘this is what you’re playing.’”

Each member was charged with writing their own parts to the catchy but bare-bones compositions that Michael had demoed using only an acoustic guitar. With flutes, violas, kalimbas and, yes, glockenspiels, the song skeletons were given flesh and sinews in some very unusual tones and textures.

So far, the Library theme has been limited to an appropriately quirky photo shoot and comically misleading credits on the group’s fan page (Rachel Blumenthal, for example, is identified as the band’s flutist and “Senior Cataloguer of Plague-Era Autobiographies”).

Of course, these gimmicks have a way of taking on a life of their own.

“I was looking through Sophia’s vintage glasses and wore these for the photo shoot,” says singer/acoustic guitarist Tanya Palit at a recent practice, gesturing to her pearly, pointy-rimmed spectacles. “They were just for the costume, but I love them so much I got prescription lenses put in.”

So, just to be safe, you should probably snatch a copy of the band’s debut album before they get carried away and start limiting the release to rentals only. As for the concerts, I’m not sure it’s possible to come up with a rental system for live performances, but if anyone can find a way to make it work, it’s Epstein and company.
- The Dig


Debut full-length early 2011



The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library is the world's only male-fronted, all-female band and likely the world's only librarian-attired downtempo indie baroque pop act. The MJEML is a nine-member acoustic ensemble featuring intricately constructed, tongue-in-cheek tortuous songs with an emphasis on narrative.

The MJEML also recently received a grant from the Passim Iguana Fund to complete its debut.

Michael J. Epstein's previous project, The Motion Sick ( saw great success with coverage by national media including SPIN and songs in the internationally distributed Dance Dance Revolution video game series.