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Six strings and a dream: Musician with Charles City roots now an author, too

  • Andy Schneider, a 1987 graduate of Charles City High School, has recently penned a pair of instructional books about playing guitar. (Photo submitted.)

  • Andy Schneider, a 1987 graduate of Charles City High School, has recently penned a pair of instructional books about playing guitar. (Photo submitted.)

By James Grob,

Guitarist, musician, singer, songwriter, performer, teacher — and now an author, too.

Andy Schneider, a 1987 graduate of Charles City High School, has recently penned a pair of instructional books about playing guitar. The books put Schneider’s adaptive instructional style, honed over many years of playing, touring and teaching guitar lessons, onto the page for anyone to read.

“I help guitarists who have some knowledge of their instrument but are seeking answers,” Schneider said. “They want to master this business of making music.”

Through his 30-plus year music career, Schneider has been on TV, played several legendary venues and played “alongside the most truly gifted musicians on our planet.”

Schneider’s teaching style looks to build from the natural strengths of each student, and that’s what he’s trying to get across in his book, “Seeing Music on the Guitar: A visual approach to playing music.”

“I wrote this book to explain to everyone who doesn’t know anything about music theory, basically all they need to know to be functional when it comes to scales and chords,” said Schneider, who currently resides in Marfa, Texas — along the far western region of the state — with his wife, Hope J. Lafferty, who is a writer, actor and playwright.

His wife’s interest in theater helped inspire Schneider’s other book, entitled “Guitar for Actors,” which was also recently released.

“My wife has a theater company. I’ve had conversations with actors and they agreed, they don’t need to be a master guitar player, but they need to be functional, they need to especially make it look as though they really know what they’re doing,” Schneider said.

Schneider said he gets frustrated when he sees an actor on stage or screen who is supposed to be playing a guitar, but obviously doesn’t have the first clue. He said a good actor wants to avoid giving away the fact they they aren’t really a guitar player.

“I wrote the book simply to be a very abbreviated version of how to get functional on the guitar quickly,” Schneider said. “It includes a style guide for actors — visual cues that those who play guitar are looking for — so you’re stylistically correct. Even with the sound off, I can tell a heavy metal guitar player from a classical guitar player.”

The book also includes minor details, such as what equipment a certain genre of guitar player would likely be using, as well as the more technical aspects of guitar playing. Both books were available to the public in early July, and Schneider said he’s seen some interest and sales right away.

“It’s pretty exhilarating. It’s pretty cool to see those sales every week,” he said. “I don’t think all of them are my mom.”

His mother, Sharon Schneider of Charles City, introduced him to the world of music with piano lessons when he was in grade school.

According to Sharon, in fourth grade he was allowed to choose an instrument to join band or orchestra, and he selected the violin.  Apparently, after a few months it occurred to Andy that violinists do not march in bands, so he added clarinet and was part of both groups. Things got really busy after that.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the unbelievable, unfailing teachers that we had in Charles City,” Schneider said. “That includes Gene Martin, who I know is still around and still the same character he always was. He was just a really devoted teacher. He propelled and encouraged me.”

Schneider said he worked with Martin, a longtime Charles City music teacher, from fourth grade all the way through graduation.

“I have to give a lot of credit to the entire school system, which made a special track for me because I wanted to be able to be in chorus, band and orchestra all at the same time,” Schneider said. “That puts a dent into your regular studies. They actually made a way that I could get all my coursework done and still do all the music stuff, which was awfully kind and allowed me to keep studying music. I didn’t know then that I was studying for my vocation at the time.”

After high school, Schneider received his B.S in applied physics, with a minor in audio recording technology, from the University of Northern Iowa. He started giving music lessons while still in college, and started to realize that “a guy could almost make a living from this music stuff.”

Schneider teaches a variety of styles including folk, country, blues, rock, pop, ragtime, bluegrass and jazz. His experiences touring with multiple bands have taken him all over the continent. Twenty years on the road has taken him from Iowa to Worcester, Massachusetts, to Nashville, to Austin, Texas, and to New York City, when he lived for eight years.

“That was like getting a master’s degree in music,” Schneider said of New York. “You could really study the greatest musicians in the world right up close. It was a banquet of information.”

He and Hope have been settled in Marfa for about 10 years now, and they’ve begun to collaborate. Hope’s theater company, Marfa Theatre Incubator, was selected to appear at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C., as “Mayhem and Other Delights.”  She produced the plays and he composed and performed the music.

One of the short plays touches on the 1968 Charles City tornado.

“She has been a creative writer her whole life, and five years ago got the acting bug, studied acting, and that led her into playwriting,” Schneider said.

He said that the performances in Washington were very rewarding.

“It was adventurous theater, and it was great to get in front of an urban audience, and it was very well-received,” Schneider said. “We had very good press reviews and coverage. I think I got the best review of my life. I just mind my music and let the actors mind their acting.”

Schneider said that both his books are available online and should now also be available for order at any bookstore in the country.