Humans have always loved to bang on drums. New research indicating that drumming speeds healing, boosts immunity, and helps release emotional trauma is no surprise to percussionists—they’ve always known how good it makes them feel. In New Paltz, people drawn in by drumming have a wonderful resource at their fingertips: CHBO Drums, an old-school shop where the rhythm and the sound are everything. After attending Berklee School of Music and constantly touring, Chris moved to New York City and immediately landed in the downtown session scene. “I had a day job, an internship designing percussion instruments for an international company, and I was hustling gigs in the evenings and meeting all kinds of people,” he says. “Coming there, after the mountains of North Carolina, was like walking into a Fellini film. It was magic.”
In New Paltz, people drawn in by drumming have a wonderful resource at their fingertips: CHBO Drums, an old-school shop where the rhythm and the sound are everything.
He met and married his wife Julie, a designer. The couple and their two sons lived in Brooklyn; however, after exploring the Hudson Valley, they built a second home in Kerhonkson. Bowman’s skill at designing and building studios—he’s built 250-plus of them, some as distant as Malaysia—was in high demand. “Building studios, playing gigs, and being a dad, it was a lot,” he says. “It was controlled chaos, and I loved it.” In the early 2000s, the family moved to Ulster County full time.
After living in the community for a couple of years, Julie created what would become a musical and culinary legend: Jack and Luna’s Café offered superb lunches and catering and live jazz each month. Chris continued building studios locally. “These days, I still do consulting, and I teach acoustical classes on Zoom for NYU and Eastman School of Music.”
Ten years ago, Bowman located a little shop in New Paltz down by the river and the Rail Trail. “I wanted someplace to go a couple of days a week and have some fun,” he says. “So I just opened up a kooky little drum shop, and people sought me out.”
The building recently sold, and he quickly learned that New Paltz really didn’t want him leaving town. His new location, at the corner of Main Street and Oakwood Terrace, gave him 1,800 square feet to fill with percussion instruments of all kinds. “I’ve got just a boatload of stuff in here,” he says. “I’ve got a whole Sonic Energy Corner full of singing bowls and tuning forks, world music stuff.
I have a lot of vintage American-made gear, stuff from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that’s become collectible, and then I have new small kits for beginners. I sell a lot of djembes, and gongs for all sorts of purposes, from yoga classes to a real estate brokerage that wanted a gong to hit when they closed a big sale.”
“I wanted someplace to go a couple of days a week and have some fun. So I just opened up a kooky little drum shop, and people sought me out.” - Owner Chris Bowman
“I love the way music forms a common denominator—you can be anyone, from anywhere, look like anything, you don’t even need a common language because music...transcends everything.” - Chris Bowman
“Our drum instructor, Sal, teaches private lessons in our house studio. He organizes performance events for the kids, gets them into bands, and just, everything about it feels good,” says Bowman. “People come in to look at the latest gear, try stuff, hear my crazy old musician stories. I do repairing, refinishing and consignment. The whole mission is to hook you up with what you need and what you’ll love to play. People these days will go online and make a purchase based on a sound bite, a sample—and then it shows up and it isn’t what they expected because they never actually heard the instrument, they heard something from their computer speaker. Shopping a brick-and-mortar store is a completely different experience.”
“I get a ton of college students and I love them—they’re so wide-eyed and on fire with it,” says Bowman. “I’ve added a lot of my painting and sculpture to my space. Walking into the space feels more like a gallery with vintage, collectable drums and percussion mingled with my art. I love the way music and art form a common denominator—you can be anyone, from anywhere, look like anything, you don’t even need a common language because art is that. It transcends everything.”
When a newbie enters the shop, says Bowman, “the first thing I tell them is, I’ve been doing this a million years and there’s no right or wrong. I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned, but you’ll never hear me say, ‘This is the only way to do it’ because it’s just one of so many ways, and the right way for this individual is going to come from inside them.” Besides running CHBO, Bowman still plays jazz.
“I just did a heavy avant-garde gig down in Brooklyn. Last week, I was part of a big benefit concert in Rosendale. I just finished working on a record up in Boston and played a harmolodic concert there at the end of the year. It’s just balancing the things out and having fun. “This is my bliss, and sharing it just makes it better. I believe you have to keep moving—do something every day that makes you happy. If you’re not having fun, that’s on you, you know?”
1 South Oakwood Terrace, New Paltz
Hours: Wed - Sat: 11am-5pm