This is the fourth feature in our Rocktober series, dropping every Saturday in October. This week, we chatted with Erin and Karl at the Rhinebeck School of Music about their workshops, classes, and concerts.
After working together at a music store in Rhinebeck for many years, Karl Allweier and Erin Hobson aimed to create a musical learning center that would benefit students of all abilities and all ages in the Hudson Valley.
The result was the Rhinebeck School of Music.
They offer private, one-on-one instruction on a variety of different instruments, as well as workshops, online music programs, and frequently perform concerts with the help of their students.
“Our students range in age from three years old to 80 years old, and everything in between. So everybody has a different thing that they want to do and play,” Karl said.
They currently have a total of eight teachers: Karl, who offers instruction on upright and electric bass and acoustic and electric guitar; Erin, who offers instruction on acoustic and electric guitar and ukulele; Caroline Ryan, who offers instruction on violin; Theodore Gresler, who offers instruction on guitar, piano, ukulele, mandolin, and bass; Maria Giovanetti, who offers voice instruction; Adam Pierce, who offers instruction on drums, piano, guitar, and recording; Eileen Landman, who offers instruction on piano; and John Ross, who offers instruction on digital recording and film scoring.
Karl and Erin focus on featuring lessons for instruments that “people would start a band with,” – i.e. guitar, drums, and bass, among others. Other instruments, like the violin, are new additions to the lineup of lessons.
The Rhinebeck School of Music typically hosts several concerts a year for their students. Each concert covers a range of genres that students are interested in – usually rock, folk, pop, and jazz.
“We try to cover mostly everything and keep it as diverse as possible,” Erin said. “A lot of our teachers are incredibly versatile as well and can teach many different instruments.”
They try to group kids together based on similar styles and similar musical interests, and from there, many of those groups practice on their own outside of lessons.
Going forward, Erin and Karl are considering hosting performance workshops before concerts where students can rehearse and get a sense of what it’s like to be on stage. “We’re contemplating doing performances in bigger venues as well,” Karl said.
Currently, they rent out halls and other performance spaces for their concerts. They also recently performed concerts at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market, the Copake Food Truck Festival, and at Hardscrabble Day in Red Hook.
The Rhinebeck School of Music also hosts a variety of workshops for beginners and more advanced musicians.
Karl has previously hosted blues workshops of five to eight students. “We get together with whatever instruments people are interested in, and then we talk about different styles, pick songs to learn, and analyze what’s going on in those songs. The workshops are typically for people interested in that genre in the first place, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come if you don’t specialize in playing the blues,” he said.
Erin has hosted ukulele group classes for both kids and adults. Those workshops are typically six people to a class and run for between four and five weeks. “It gives them the opportunity to learn together in a group environment,” she said. “We go over the basics. We pick songs to play weekly, and then we learn strumming patterns, melody, rhythm, and basic note reading.”
They’ve also hosted introduction to music classes for kids ages four to seven, which gives them an opportunity to come in and experiment with different instruments. They focus on teaching through games and fun activities, so the kids can get a feel for what instruments they like and what it’s like to play together in a group setting.
Adam Pierce, one of the teachers at the school who also has a recording studio in Clermont, has offered a rock band workshop. A group of teenagers get together and rehearse a few rock songs on day one, record on day two, and then learn how to mix their recordings and use the equipment in the studio on day three. At the end they get to go home with their own recorded demo.
Additionally, Erin has also hosted ‘Sip N Strums’ in conjunction with local breweries. They’ve previously hosted them at Tousey Winery in Germantown and Lasting Joy Brewery in Tivoli. “That’s usually about 10-14 people, and we focus on ukulele or guitar. I give them charts for five or six songs to play, we go over them beforehand, and then we play. Everyone gets a token for a drink!”
Partnerships with the Community
Prior to the pandemic, the Rhinebeck School of Music partnered with Abilities First, an organization that works to provide support for those who face developmental challenges.
They worked with students at elementary, middle, and high school levels, and would do a variety of games and lessons, including karaoke, build your own instruments, percussion lessons, ukulele lessons, and even songwriting classes.
“Bringing in different instruments to expose them to music was so great for them,” Erin said. “Then our work with Abilities First spilled over into the Red Hook Library Program for All Abilities, so we started partnering with them teaching classes there as well.”
Karl said that the pandemic “derailed” a lot of these partnerships, but that they’re looking into partnering with other local organizations again. “We’re loosely affiliated with Rhinebeck High School, and we’re talking about bringing in some of their singers for our concerts in the future,” he said. “We’re looking to further explore all of these opportunities and continue to open up doors to the community.”
Karl + Erin’s Musical History
Karl and Erin are no strangers to the music world. Both have been involved since they were kids. Karl grew up in Connecticut and studied music privately throughout his childhood and teen years, before attending Marist College, where he minored in music.
He began playing with local bands in the 1990s, and has toured as an opening act for the likes of B.B. King, Cyndi Lauper, and Dr. John. “I played with a different range of bands, and being a musician has a lot to do with diversifying yourself and being able to do a little bit of everything,” he said.
He’s also written and composed music that has appeared in commercials and documentaries including A&E Channel’s Biography series, The Travel Channel Road Trip series, The History Channel’s Da Vinci Code and Big Texas documentaries, among others.
Karl also frequently hosts open mic nights and performs regularly with other local musicians.
Erin has also studied music since she was a kid. “I started learning guitar and music when I was nine, and then I was in band throughout my whole high school career,” she said.
During this time, she also began studying privately and said that her jazz teacher was a major influence on her. “I credit him for getting me into jazz and blues,” she said.
From there, Erin attended SUNY New Paltz, where she majored in jazz performance. Following her graduation, she moved to Los Angeles where she began performing more frequently as well as teaching music. She had a band locally following her move back to New York, and they opened for Willie Nelson, Melissa Etheridge, and Loretta Lynn, among others.
While they don’t get the chance to play together very often, Karl and Erin will be performing together at All-Star Jam at Black Snake Brewery on November 4.
Looking long term, Erin and Karl would like to expand their business in some way.
“Before COVID, I was considering opening another place in an area like Kingston or Poughkeepsie, but then with the pandemic we had to worry about staying in business,” Erin said. “In my ideal world, it would be nice to have a bigger space. We’d like a really big room where we could have everything set up all the time, so we could just plug in and play.”
Karl concurred with much of what Erin said and also added, “We’re just focused on growing and expanding in whatever way opportunities come to us. We want to keep branching out and reaching more people.”
They also note that they don’t want people to be deterred from starting lessons because of inexperience or any perceived obstacles. They have students from all ages and all walks of life, some of which have physical and mental disabilities.
“We’re here for the community. We’re a space where there’s no judgment on people’s levels, abilities, or goals,” Erin said. “We’re here to work with all types of musicians, regardless of how big or small their goals are.”
“You have to approach everyone differently. Anyone can learn music at any age,” Karl added. “It’s never too late.”
Rhinebeck School of Music
6815 Route 9, Astor Square in Rhinebeck, NY
Second floor above The Bottle Shop