Music and Medicine: Susan E. and BluesLiner

MiMi Yeh

I first met Mike in our Chem 103 class, lecture to be exact. Chemistry, to me, is fairly dull and naturally, with my kindergarten attention span, I turned to the guy beside me and started chatting. I didn’t see him for a while after chemistry. We had different majors, mine was biochemistry and his, engineering.

Recently, I ran into Mike, an artist formally known as Michael Shannon Boesel, and coerced him into having lunch with me after talking for a few minutes (who can resist when someone else offers to foot the bill?).

After running into fellow staff members and getting onto the subject of music, I decided to interview Mike on the spur of the moment. What an experience. Mike is a true fighter, taking on pre-med (with a biology concentration), jamming at jazz/blues clubs, and, to top it off, surviving all-boys, Catholic high school (“I have no regrets. We used mass to cause trouble and throw stuff at girls).

His first experience with music was at the hands of strict, Russian piano teachers who schooled in the art of classical piano and musical theory from first to fifthgrade. Yet, for all his hard work, Mike would play jazz and blues riffs as soon as his instructors left the room, instead of scales. Early on, he had discovered a passion for the smooth and soothing tones of the blues.

“They gave me a good technical grounding. My mom had a feeling I was leaning towards jazz, so she signed me up with a different teacher in the fifth grade where I started learning jazz fundamentals.”

When he’s not in school or working as an orderly at Norwood Hospital, Mike is playing keyboard with Susan E. and Bluesliner, a band he has formally been with for two years but known for five. They’ve played at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Avalon, weddings, parties, this year’s Plymouth Blues Festical, benefit shows, and local venues.

Susan Picollo, the lead singer, is a professor of communications and public speaking at Northeastern and is married to the drummer, Gus Lawler, who teaches English at Mike’s alma mater, Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree. Rick Amati, on guitar, is a manager at a local Norwood bar, Conrads, while the bassist, Dan Giuliotti, is an East Boston sound engineer.

Picollo was the drama director for Archbishop Williams during Mike’s formative teenage years and, discovering a mutual love of blues, asked him to join. The rest, as they say, is history.

His musical influences are many. A self-described “sort of hippy, sort of oddball-caffeine addict”, he grew up on a diet of 60s folk a la James Taylor and branched out into the Allman Brothers, Muddy Waters, Johnny Smith, the Grateful Dead, Jimmy McGrath, and Doctor John.

His recalls his first contact with the blues. As he was flipping through some radio stations, he came across WGBH’s after-hours blues program that runs from 9pm to midnight. His first thought: “Wow, this is really cool.” He’s been hooked ever since.

So if Mike loves it that much then why choose medicine instead? “I want to help people,” he says. “It’s so hard to get work as a musician after you graduate. It’s more fun as a hobby.”

To find out more about Susan E. and Bluesliner, log onto and check out their upcoming gigs.