Frankfort shop owner shares his love of music by organizing festival
BY JAIME ANGIO Correspondent June 13, 2012 2:44PM
Steven Haberichter, who is a driving force behind the annual Frankfort Bluegrass Festival, at his shop Down Home Guitars in Frankfort. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 6:01AM
The science of sound is an important part of Steven Haberichter’s life.
Acoustics provides his livelihood and it is his passion.
“The word ‘acoustic’ is actually the natural vibration of sound,” he said.
It’s the main component of Bluegrass music.
“Through all the different styles of music, Bluegrass just ended up settling, getting in my veins,” he said.
Haberichter is a musician in the band Leadfoot and co-owner of Down Home Guitars in downtown Frankfort, a high-end, all-acoustic instrument shop, school and musical showcase for talent.
The 36-year-old Orland Park native and resident of Blue Island has been strumming strings from pretty early on.
“I probably strummed a little bit when I was around 10,” he said. The first guitar he played was a 1982 Yamaha Acoustic.
“My brother had an acoustic guitar and there was one lying around the house and it piqued my interest,” he said.
Haberichter graduated from Sandburg High School in Orland Park in 1993, then enrolled in Columbia College and majored in music.
“Going to school and meeting all these other musicians from all over the country really kind of advanced in me learning all these different styles,” he said.
Haberichter started to explore folk, blues and various genres of music. And then, he found his muse.
“A friend of mind gave me a mandolin and I thought it was cool, because everyone played guitar and the mandolin was just this different instrument,” he said. “The mandolin is actually the same tuning and notes as the violin, except it plays like a guitar.”
By 21, Haberichter moved to
the South Side and got a job at World Folk Music.
He was teaching music full time and a few years down the line he started managing the store. He also taught music at the Forum for Creative Study, a private school in Blue Island.
Haberichter then started toying with the idea of opening a music shop.
“I knew there really wasn’t a high-end acoustic instrument shop anywhere around here,” he said.
He met Tom Smith on the Bluegrass circuit and they opened Down Home Guitars in 2008.
“Our whole thought is that a lot of times you go to music stores and they have a bit of everything, electric guitars, drums, pianos and the acoustics were always kind of pushed in the little room,” he said. “As far as I know, we’re the only all-acoustic shop in the Midwest.”
More than 400 high-end acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos, upright bass, ukuleles and violins are on display.
“We get people that travel from quite a distance,” he said.
And if you want to learn to play instruments, there is a fleet of 10 teachers on hand seven days a week.
“We offer lessons for electric guitar, drum, piano and other stuff. We are more than just a bluegrass shop,” he said. “Bluegrass is just a style, you can play any style on an acoustic guitar. Whatever people want to learn, we have teachers that can do that.”
Every Thursday, they hold bluegrass jams sessions. And year-round, they hold concerts. And last year, the Frankfort Bluegrass Festival proved to benefit a lot more people than planned.
“I would be looking out the window and there’s the little train depot stage and I thought ‘what a perfect place to have a cool little bluegrass fest.’ It just sort of seemed like a perfect fit,” he said.
So Haberichter, along with a group of people called the “Bluegrass Committee,” worked tirelessly in putting on the free festival. The committee raised money for the festival through donations and tip jars at their concerts at the shop.
“When everybody came together, we thought ‘let’s just offer something free for the community, a two-day festival for people,’” he said. “We know that money is tight. Where can you bring your family to do something for free,” he said.
After last year’s success, the committee is planning another festival for July 14 and 15 at Breidert Green, providing an array of Bluegrass bands, food and craft vendors.
“This is definitely a labor of love for all of us,” Haberichter said. “It’s a great thing because it’s real happy music. Even though there is a lot of song about pain and strife, it’s done in such a happy context. This is a really great thing (the festival) shared by a group of people.”