BY MAUREEN WERTHER
Chelsie Henderson, owner of Rural Soul Studio in Schuylerville, blends the female entrepreneurial spirit with the soul of a musician and the generosity of a teacher.
Originally from Easton, N.Y., Henderson received a degree in music education from the University of Vermont. She was always keenly interested in ethnomusicology, but she also loved teaching.
After graduating from college, Henderson went on to develop a portfolio as teacher, director, conductor and performer. She developed and implemented a choral program and co-directed theater productions in rural Vermont. She honed her conducting skills with the Bella Voce Women’s Chorus of Vermont.
In 2009, Henderson was awarded the title of “Outstanding New Music Educator,” shortly thereafter satisfying her urge to travel and experience ethnic music first hand. Her travels took her to India, Ireland and Italy with, as she says, her “ears and eyes wide open.”
She fell in love with music from West Africa and began studying the djembe and doundouns, drums that come from West Africa.
Rural Studio “started out as a little written seed” that she wrote in her journal on the way home from a trip to New Orleans. Not long after, Henderson hatched the plan for Rural Soul. The mission was to create a center for music that would complement and support existing music programming in the local schools and nearby community centers. One of the goals was to eventually offer programs that are not typically available in more remote rural areas.
Henderson opened Rural Soul in Greenwich in 2012, offering private and small group lessons in piano, voice, guitar, brass, woodwind and strings. Before long, more instructors were added to the team and Rural Soul began offering music and art camps, as well as expanding the curriculum to include ukulele, banjo, and West African drums.
As the business outgrew the space, Henderson opened a second location at 90 Broad St. in Schuylerville in September 2013.
Now celebrating five years in the Schuylerville studio, the team consists of five music instructors, as well as several master musicians who are hosted at the studio throughout the year.
The Rural Soul group also offers community outreach in schools, libraries, youth centers and adult living communities.
“I feel like my whole life was leading in this direction. Funk, jazz and blues are all rooted in West African music,” she said.
Henderson said she is fulfilling her dream to teach, perform and impart her love of music and musical forms from around the world to people in small, rural communities, who might otherwise not be exposed to the expanse of musical experiences from all corners of the globe.