Ethical Culture jives and joes at the coffee house


Only at the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture could you catch a vibe of ethics and java in the same space.
Inspired by an old coffee shop where music and society members once spent most of their time, the coffee beans are back, thanks to Lindsey Wilson and some of her friends, with a line-up of musicians does not disappoint at the Coffee House at Ethical.
“The shows are amazing and the artists are amazing, and the turnout is a little low,” said Wilson, who is both the master of ceremonies and booking agent for the event, taking place the second Sunday of the month. “But I think once more people know about it, they’ll be coming out in droves.”
Cover is a suggested donation of $15 — but if someone wants to mix music and ethics, they’re not required to pay, Wilson said. Coffee House at Ethical started in June, and typically begins with a cup of hot or iced coffee and other baked goods available for sale at 7 p.m.
For many, this might be the only exposure they get to a local Ethical Culture program — but that’s OK, said Elizabeth Collier, the society’s community outreach director.
“I think that the coffee house provides another entry point to the public to learn about us and enjoy our space and look for something to do with our community,” she said.
Although the Coffee House at Ethical is an entertaining event, it doesn’t shy too far from the organization’s mission as a whole. Within the musical performances, the coffee house still creates a space for social justice, expression and the society’s philosophies, Collier said. The music comments on humanity and subject matter that hints to the society.
The space is usually filled with a range of ages, but 50 and older make up the typical majority right now.
Yet, the coffee house gives the community a place to congregate at its 4450 Fieldston Road meeting house, and musicians a platform to express their art.
“Our space has such great acoustics for music, and it’s such an amazing experience,” Collier said. “When the sun goes down, the whole atmosphere and that summer evening space just feels different, and the music just feels wonderful.”
The society attracts families and is growing as a whole, Collier said. The coffee house taps into the need of a different population who may have not been getting as much attention.
Original music, guitar and budding musicians are a few parts of the Sunday evening program, along with a shared love for music amongst the leaders of the society.
“I’m not a member, but I am the musician in residence at the ethical society,” Wilson said. “The calling of the ethical society is a very positive one, and (Ethical Culture leader) Jone Johnson Lewis — I take my hat off to her because she is an avid music fan, and Liz Collier, she’s also a musician. They both love music very much.”
And Riverdale could be a new hotbed for these kind of message-filled performances.
“It’s an amazing community,” Wilson said. “I’m trying to get people from other areas to come check it out because I love it. People say, ‘Yes, it’s too far,’ but once you get up to this area, it’s really not that much of a trek.
“Then there’s this music involved. I want people to come up and check out the community because I think it’s that special.”
The next coffee house is scheduled for Oct. 14. To learn more about this and other events at the Ethical Culture society, visit
The coffee house was created not only for performances, Wilson said, but to provide a safe space for the community where people can come and feel inspired.
“I’m a progressive thinker,” she said. “I think that everyone needs some good music to get them through uncertain times, and there’s a lot of musicians that have something to say. And the coffee house is a place to say it.”