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Celebrating 30 years of music, ideas, & community on the radio

Meet the Team

Nick Forster

Nick Forster was born in Beirut (his father worked briefly with the U.S. Foreign Service) and grew on his family farm in Garrison, New York. He was an early lover of nature and music, and by the age of five he had chosen his favorite recording artists: Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, Trio Los Panchos, The Weavers, and The Kingston Trio. 

Then, the Beatles played on The Ed Sullivan Show. Soon after, Nick started playing drums and then a guitar a year later. He then bought a banjo and a mandolin and was well on his way to becoming a versatile multi-instrumentalist. He made his first trip to Colorado when he hitchhiked from New York at the age of 17. His desire to pursue music as a career brought him back to Colorado a few years later where he worked at the famed Denver Folklore Center as an instrument repairman. 

It was at the Denver Folklore Center that, in 1978, Forster joined Tim O’Brien, Pete Wernick, and Charles Sawtelle to complete the award winning contemporary bluegrass band Hot Rize. Nick played bass, sang lead and backing vocals and when the mood struck (and the Trailblazers emerged), played inspired Western Swing guitar. 

Hot Rize toured relentlessly, appearing on countless radio and television programs, including Austin City Limits, The Grand Ole Opry, and Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. In 1991, Hot Rize earned a Grammy nomination and took home the Entertainer of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Ironically, in the face of this wave of success, the band members collectively decided to pursue other projects. 

While on a State Department musical tour in eastern Europe in 1990, Nick, along with Sam Bush, John Cowan, and Laurie Lewis, saw firsthand the power of music to bring disparate community members together. He also saw the environmental degradation in Eastern Europe. That combination helped birth the idea for a new radio show, one that would feature live music plus conversation around sustainability, climate change, and stewardship. The following year, eTown was born, launching on NPR with roughly 40 stations carrying the show every week. 

Now, 30 years later, eTown is carried weekly by roughly 300 stations. Nick continues his role as host and music director and is also the organization’s CEO. His warm on-air wit, insightful interviewing skills, and stellar musicianship are hallmarks of the show. Prior to COVID-19, eTown shows had been recorded live at the solar-powered eTown Hall in downtown Boulder, a renovated former church that is home to the eTown offices, world class recording studio, and other public spaces. 

Nick remains an active player in the music world, performing at festivals and playing on recording sessions for various artists across all genres. He also is an accomplished record producer and songwriter with a long list of credits.

Nick has three daughters, three grandchildren, and lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife Helen and their adorable cat, Emma. 

Helen Forster

Helen Forster, eTown co-founder, has been making things better wherever she goes for a long time. Arriving in Telluride, Colorado in 1973, after studying theater and music as a child and graduating from college in her hometown of Minneapolis, Helen quickly jumped into the creative scene as she and her friends began transforming what was then a sleepy mining town. Helen acted with local professional theater groups and also wrote for and performed in comedy revues. She produced numerous stage productions, sang in local clubs, hosted a weekly radio show on the newly formed KOTO radio station (which she helped to start) and was a co-owner and co-producer of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, helping it survive its early rocky years and become what it is now, one of the most important music festivals in the world. 

After meeting Nick Forster at that festival in 1987, the two eventually teamed up in Boulder to launch eTown in 1991. (They were married a month after the first eTown show!) Helen’s talent as an experienced voice-over professional added an element of polish to the shows right off the bat. She went on to become the producer and principal writer of the eChievement Award, one of the most popular segments of every eTown show. She tirelessly combed through stories of ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things on behalf of their greater communities. She prepared individual winners for their interviews and made sure that their stories not only inspired our listeners but brought the winners additional volunteers, donations, and publicity. 

Helen served as the co-host of eTown from its inception. She appeared throughout each weekly program as both announcer and eChievement Award segment host. In addition, Helen is a gifted writer as well as a brilliant editor who post-produced the recorded live shows. She also became a critical member of the house band, the eTones, as the resident harmony singer, blending her voice seamlessly with singers of every stripe. She provided harmony back-up for hundreds of guest artists including Sarah McLachlan, James Taylor, Mavis Staples, Dallas Green (City & Colour), Indigo Girls, Shawn Colvin, Brett Dennen, Aoife O’Donovan, Gregory Alan Isakov, and many more.

STAFF

Nick Forster
Executive Director, Host, & Executive Director

Helen Forster
eTown Co-Founder & Host

Donna Giardina
Graphics & Production Coordinator

Debbie Merino
Finance

Zack Littlefield
Director of Video Production

Todd Ayers
Post Production Audio Engineer

Devon Forster
Director of Marketing and Events

Daniel Buono
Marketing Specialist

James Tuttle
Chief Engineer

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Nick Forster
eTown Co-Founder, Host, & Executive Director

Helen Forster
eTown Co-Founder & Host

Michael Platt, Chair
JD, Partner in Charge, Cooley, LLP

Krista Marks, Vice Chair
Co-Founder / CEO, Woot Math

Don Hazell
Management Consultant; former CFO Rally Software

Terry J. Rodrigue
Founder, Interwest Engineering / Interwest Consulting Group 

Todd Barrett
Senior Director, HR for Mergers and Acquisitions, Apple

Holly Hamann
Chief Marketing Officer, Wurk