About Schaef-Abel Productions

Schaef-Abel Productions consists of Laurie Schaeffer and Greg Abel; hence, Schaef-Abel. Laurie and Greg met in 1975, while attending Sonoma State College and have been good friends since. One of the major threads that holds them together is their love of music. Having attended many (hundreds) of concerts together through the years, it was a natural process for them to create a listening room in Sonoma County.


Laurie and Greg, 1975

Schaef-Abel Productions specializes in hosting touring singer/songwriters of the folk/country genre.

Schaef-Abel Productions concerts benefit KRCB Radio whenever possible. Schaef-Abel Productions are solid believers and supporters of public radio and are proud to benefit our wonderful, local public radio station. KRCB has many locally produced radio shows, with most of the artists we host, played on the station. We encourage you to check it out! www.krcb.org


E: Where musicians unplug in West County

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 | Posted by Laurie Weed



It’s not every concert ticket that comes with a treasure map. The map leads to a converted barn on the southwest side of Sebastopol , where narrow lanes wind among the apple orchards and quiet farmhouses. It also reminds ticket holders, on behalf of the neighbors, to drive no more than 15 mph.

Nina Gerber, left, and Chris Webster, right warm up during sound check at Studio E in Sebastopol , May 7, 2011. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

At the end of a country road, two volunteers in day-glow vests direct slow-moving cars across a lumpy field. An hour before show time, most of the audience has already parked and is lined up outside the barn, also known as Studio E, waiting patiently for the doors to open.

Laurie Schaeffer of Schaef-Abel Productions works the door, welcoming each ticket holder warmly and greeting regular guests by name. As usual, the show is sold out.

Schaeffer has a deep, lifelong passion for a certain kind of music: acoustic Americana with a country-folk bent. She started booking shows at Studio E seven years ago with the goal of creating “a listening room,” where folk musicians and singer/songwriters could play their music “the way it was meant to be heard.”

The barn, a former Grateful Dead party house, was turned into a professional recording studio by current owner Jeff Martin, who saw the potential for a private performance venue. Inside, almost a hundred people are jostling politely for seats on the motley assortment of folding chairs and old sofas. Curved wooden sound panels, painted purple and black, appear leftover from the Dead era. Martin bounces through the crowd, grinning and shaking hands. More volunteers staff the CD table and sell drinks out of the kitchen.

“This is almost a no-profit venture,” says Schaeffer. “Everybody is paid on percentage, and we get by with lots of volunteer help. People just love coming here; it feels like a family affair.”

And a family affair it is: Martin’s parents often spend a whole day baking, then invite everybody into the kitchen for dessert after the show.

Peter Viehoever, sound technician at Studio E in Sebastopol , runs through sound check with Chris Webster and Nina Gerber, May 7, 2011. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

Another volunteer steps up to the microphone to welcome the crowd, some of whom drove all the way from Humboldt County . Waving from behind the soundboard, engineer Peter Viehoever gets his own enthusiastic round of applause even before the show begins.

The appeal to the audience is clear, but what does it take to convince top musicians to play a 100-seat barn in West County ? “We treat them really, really well,” Schaeffer says. ““This is a home-away-from-home for the performers. Our amazing sound guy runs out and helps them load. And I always make them a home-cooked meal, which is something that musicians on the road don’t get too often—and I take requests!” She adds: “It’s hard work being on the road, performing at different venues all the time. Here, they can put down the set lists for a night, just relax and do what they love best, and be appreciated for it. That means a lot to them.”

Tonight’s show features country/folk singer Chris Webster and legendary bluegrass/folk guitarist Nina Gerber. The two have played together many times over their 20-year acquaintance and talk to each other like old friends, yet nothing about their performance feels worn. “Normally, Chris and Nina are both kind of shy. But when they’re together, they play off of each other, improvise, break out new material and jokes, cracking up each other and the audience.” Schaeffer says with delight.

Setting up on stage, the two musicians seem relaxed and happy, chatting with people in the front rows. Describing the full house as “snuggly,” Webster acknowledges that these shows are a labor of love.

“Laurie [Schaeffer] makes all of this come together. She’s put her whole heart into it, made it special. It’s obviously not for the money, she just loves music—and musicians. We come back to play here because she’s created this…” Webster searches for the right word. “Community. And for the pie, of course.”

The place may look makeshift, but as Schaeffer says, “Our sound is pristine. Every show is recorded, and some of the recordings will be released as live-performance albums.”

As the first perfect note is strummed, all chatting falls silent. You can almost hear the rapture, everyone in the audience breathing softly so as not to disturb the sound. When the song ends, the crowd responds with religious fervor: thundering applause, whistles and cheers. A gray-haired woman clasps her hands under her chin and sighs. One man leaps to his feet, waving his arms in revival-meeting ecstasy. Schaeffer laughs and nods with satisfaction at the scene. “What else can I say about this place? You have to experience it for yourself. There’s nothing like it.”

For information about upcoming shows at Studio E, visit: www.northbaylive.com

(see below for more photos from Studio E)




Laurie Schaeffer of Schaef-Abel Productions before a show at Studio E in Sebastopol ,

May 7, 2011.





Nina Gerber warms up during sound check with the help of her dog Tootsie Roll Gerber at Studio E, May 7, 2011. Tootsie Roll sits on stage during Nina Gerber's performances.

North Bay Bohemian



Words Play

Laurie Schaeffer's house concerts favor songwriting and intimacy

By Gabe Meline




Photograph by Elizabeth Seward

MUSIC FAN: The sonic poetry of lyrics mean most to Laurie Schaeffer.

Words Play

Laurie Schaeffer's house concerts favor songwriting and intimacy

By Gabe Meline

One night in 1976, Laurie Schaeffer was talking with folk songwriter Kate Wolf after a concert in Sonoma County . "So, Laurie," Wolf asked, "are you a musician?" Schaeffer, who'd just given up the piano, said no. "Well," Wolf persisted, "what are you good at?" Schaeffer sputtered something about being a good organizer.

Wolf's reply has been a guiding mantra for the music fan and concert promoter ever since. "There's a need for people like you in the music world," Wolf said.

For the last 12 years, Schaeffer has been honoring the late singer's advice by not only bringing nationally known singer-songwriters to Sonoma County, but also by creating for them what she calls a "listening room"—an intimate, mannerly environment where performer and audience can commune through storytelling, nuance and lyrics. For her tireless efforts, from her first concerts at private houses to the last five years at Studio E in Sebastopol , we are glad to make her a recipient of a Boho Award this year.

Recalling the nearly 200 concerts she's hosted with luminaries like Mary Gauthier, Fred Eaglesmith, Todd Snider, Jimmy LaFave, Billy Joe Shaver, Nina Gerber, Girlyman and Chip Taylor, the 54-year-old music fan says simply, "It's amazing. I can be involved without having to play. I just have to clap."

Schaeffer grew up in Los Angeles worshipping Jethro Tull and going to enormous stadium concerts; she came to Sonoma County for college in 1975 and met her future business partner, Greg Abel. The two trekked around to see songwriters like Steve Goodman, Rodney Crowell and Rosanne Cash. Her love for music (Schaeffer's online username is "musicfan") blossomed into a love for lyrics, especially those of John Prine and a growing movement of acoustic performers.

Schaeffer booked her first concert at the home of KRCB-FM program director Robin Pressman, as a benefit for the station, with Cheryl Wheeler. Wheeler, Schaeffer says, was "very reluctant" to perform at a house, but the night's magic set the tone for hundreds of concerts to come. Wheeler loved it. The crowd loved it. For Schaeffer, "it was one of the most exciting days of my whole life."

It also started a 12-year journey of booking acoustic performers, for whom stories are more important than guitar solos. At venues such as the Dance Palace in Point Reyes, the former New College and even a barbecue joint in Santa Rosa, Schaeffer's created a quiet environment for musicians to share songs with an appreciative audience. Five years ago, when the owners of the former Powerhouse Brewing Company in Sebastopol sold the building and Schaeffer was once again on the hunt for a venue, she got a call from Jeff Martin, who had just bought a place called Studio E.

Schaeffer had been to Studio E, a small recording studio buzzed about for hosting Tom Waits rehearsals and notorious for its Deadhead parties ("Wild, crazy, lots of drugs and alcohol," she says. "Absolutely packed. They were legendary"), and she was skeptical at first. She had one question: "Do you have chairs?" Martin said he was getting some.

Schaeffer brought in soundman Peter Viehoever ("I don't like to leave home without him"), and the little wooden 100-seat cottage in the middle of an apple orchard quickly became the place. Word spread throughout the folk community. Fans began showing up, trusting the music to be good. Artists who hear about the venue are happy to turn the volume down to experience the rural splendor. And always at the front door, near the old wood stove, is Schaeffer, welcoming and bidding farewell to fellow fans.

"Some people may go to church," she says, "but live music has saved me and has given me so much pleasure in my life. And not only does it give me pleasure, but I love seeing people leave the concerts, to see how they've just become enlightened as well. Enlightened? I don't know, that might be the wrong word. But just happy. Feeling better than they did when they came in."

To learn more, go to www.northbaylive.com.

ON STAGE: Laurie Schaeffer and intimate music


December 20, 2007

by Carol Noack

Laurie Schaeffer with Billy Joe Shaver (standing, black hat) and his band. - Photo by Heidijo Fiedler

Laurie Schaeffer just celebrated her 10th anniversary producing music events - 153 of them, to be exact. Greg Abel, her pal since college days in the ‘70s, has been emceeing those shows. Together they are Schaef-Abel Productions, and if you share their love of great lyrics sung by the folks who wrote them, you should check out a Schaef-Abel show.

Laurie, an environmental planner, didn't really mean to get into this challenging sideline. KRCB Program Director Robin Pressman hosted concerts at her Lake Sonoma home in the ‘90s, and Laurie had been a regular attendee. According to Laurie, “When she (Robin) told me that it was becoming too much work I asked how I could help . . . well, I've never stopped.”

Laurie and Greg specifically seek out singer-songwriters in the folk and country genres. Says Laurie, “Greg and I love Americana music. We host concerts exclusively in a ‘listening room' environment (although some concerts may be danceable, we have created the space so that it's inductive to sitting still and LISTENING to the WORDS are important to us).


“Ten years ago, December 8, 1997, is when I hosted the first concert in which I sought out the artist, Cheryl Wheeler. We sold the place out (over 70 seats, at Robin Pressman's house) to mostly an audience that wasn't familiar with Cheryl. Not only did audience flip out over Cheryl, but many still come to my concerts as a result of trusting not only my taste in music but in the friendly, listening room environments I create. We've created an intimate room; before the concert, during the break and after the concert, many in the audience interact with each other and many new friendships have resulted.”

Laurie's passion results in terrific shows with a loyal roster of performers and an ever-growing mailing list of devoted attendees. But it also means she spends a ton of time paired with tenacity to land her preferred artists. Her venues of choice are small, which means she can't pay the performers the rates they usually require. A primary performance space for her is Studio E, on the rim of Sebastopol , which seats about 100 people. Studio E was not built to be a concert venue at all - it's a professional recording studio with space added for live concert recordings. Fortunately, the very coziness that results in a small paycheck for the performers also delights many of them.

According to Laurie, “I tried for almost ten years to host Jimmy LaFave and finally did on a Tuesday in September of this year (the day after Labor Day) and sold the place out! Jimmy and his band loved playing at Studio E and are looking forward to coming back.”


Her willingness to take any date an artist might have open is another reason for her success. When she identifies who she wants, she follows their tour schedule, looks for open dates, then pursues them. Singers on tour often prefer to fill those holes in their schedule, and appreciate offers from producers willing to host them on the less-popular timeslots - exactly what enabled Laurie to land Jimmy LaFave after her 10-year effort.

The artists also like the respectful treatment and the down-home attitude of Laurie's volunteer staff and “fabulous” sound man, Peter Viehoever. Laurie even provides a home-cooked meal with their favorite dishes. And the “listening room” ambiance results in an extremely attentive audience, and what entertainer wouldn't appreciate that?

When I asked Laurie about some specific standout memories, she first replied, “Tough question. There have only been a small handful of performances that weren't stellar.” But then she followed with a couple of her favorite moments.

“Billy Joe Shaver was quite memorable. He's a living icon, one of the original ‘Honky Tonk Heroes' (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Shaver). He and his band toned it down for us that night and the intimacy was precious. Everyone there was so aware of his powerfully written lyrics, how many major hits he has had and the influence he has had on an entire genre of music; and that for him and his band to be playing in a room with just 100 people!

Steve Seskin, Craig Carothers and Don Henry performed at Studio E last January. Besides all being accomplished songwriters from Nashville and good friends, there was some ‘magic dust' sprinkled on that night. They were in GREAT moods and obviously having a blast. Their humor, bantering and love of each other spread throughout the room.”

And wouldn't you know it? Schaef-Abel Productions is bringing back the Seskin-Carothers-Henry team on January 11. My honey, my friends and I already ordered our tickets. If you want to attend, you'll need to act fast. Check out the details on this show and other Schaef-Abel events at northbaylive.com . At the very least, you'll want to sign up for their email list to find out about other upcoming shows.


- Carol (Kiki) Noack, Marketing, Raven Performing Arts Theater


To get on our mailing list (which is used exclusively for announcements of live concerts), please send an email to subscribe@northbaylive.com.

If you prefer to receive announcements via US mail, please specify in your email or send your address to:

Laurie Schaeffer
1275 Fourth Street, PMB 653

Santa Rosa, CA 95404-4049


Laurie Schaeffer


707/ 542-7143