Describing the newly established Beacon Music Factory is like watching a scene in a Jack Black movie: An ambitious musician launches an underground program to teach kids how to rock like the pros. The only difference? Unlike Black, founder Stephen Clair actually knows what he’s doing — and his school is anything but a joke.
An acclaimed singer-songwriter in his own right, Clair has been the driving force behind live-music concert producers Local 845, which stages events such as Beacon Riverfest and the Scenic Hudson Concert Series. Though enjoyable, the administrative duties proved exhausting. “I wanted to have a guitar in my hand more of the time,” he laughs. Clair took a cue from his popular Rock Band Boot Camp lessons at Mill Street Loft and set out to establish something more permanent. “I was initially looking for a place to expand [the camp] to all kinds of genres,” he says. A climbing buddy — and pastor of Beacon’s First Presbyterian Church — suggested the church’s vacant basement as a possible location, and the rest, as they say, was history.
The Beacon Music Factory opened in January to positive response, with Clair serving as director and one of six instructors — all established songwriters. The school boasts nearly a dozen classes (and counting) for every type of aspiring musician; one choral session is even aimed at “ages 10-110.” Clair credits the creative courses and diverse faculty for the school’s initial success. “Our Junkyard Orchestra class — where kids make their own instruments with washboards and kazoos out of PVC pipe — is lead by this sort of phenomenal, silly, performer-virtuoso,” he says. “And on the other end of the spectrum, we offer classical string classes taught by a Conservatory-trained violinist.”
Within the first week, students from all corners of the mid-Valley had enrolled. “So far, people are traveling from Pleasant Valley and Garrison and Kent and Newburgh,” says Clair. “There isn’t really a school like this in this area, and it feels like it’s struck a chord. The response has been truly exciting.”
Sessions average about $12 to $15 per class, a fraction of what a typical private tutor would charge. Still, Clair acknowledges that it’s “definitely not a competition. I’m impressed — as much as our classes are affordable, plenty of kids still take private lessons.” If anything, he sees the school’s presence as a boon to independent instructors as it sparks local interest in lessons.
As for the school’s future: “There’s nothing I would like more than for it to evolve and move into its own space, where I could bring it [and Local 845’s events] under one roof,” says Clair. “It’s this traditional, classical stuff meets innovative, off-the-wall playing, this sort of musical discovery. It helps to ensure the future of live music, starting with the youth.”
For more information on the Beacon Music Factory and available courses, visit http://beaconmusicfactory.com.