Twenty-six-year-old Casey Erdman is not only an aspiring musician who has recently performed at the Flood Aid benefit concert in New Paltz, the Falcon in Marlboro and various venues throughout the Hudson Valley, but also a familiar, friendly face to those who dine at the Mountain Brauhaus, where she works, as well as the Benmarl Winery in Marlboro.
Like many, Erdman came to New Paltz from her home in Wantagh, Long Island to attend SUNY-New Paltz, where she graduated with a psychology degree. But her roots are in music. “I grew up in a family of musicians,” said Erdman. “My Mom and Dad met that way, and they perform two or three times a week as part of the Roxbury Trio. It’s amazing how passionate they are, how much they love music — and they make a living from it.”
Yet it was Erdman’s sister who first took up the musical aspirations of the next generation by taking singing lessons and music lessons as a young girl. “She’s incredibly talented and ended up majoring in opera, singing several times at Shea Stadium, and eventually turned to music education, which is the field she’s in now.”
Erdman was a bit of a late bloomer compared to her sister, as she picked up the guitar at age 12. “I always sang and loved singing, but when I was 12, I asked my Dad to teach me guitar, which he did; and now it’s with me everywhere I go.”
Her father started taking her to local coffeeshops to play live music with him, which she enjoyed. Then, at 16, she met a few other young musicians with whom she jelled, and they formed a band, the Modest 5, which played together for two years and even recorded a track. “That was my first experience working and collaborating with a band, and it was invaluable,” said Erdman. “I ended up being the lead singer, and my sister was our backup singer because of her more operatic voice.”
When they graduated, they went their separate ways — Erdman to New Paltz, where she first imagined that she would leave her music days behind her. “But it always follows you,” she said. “If it’s in you, it’s not something you can ever really leave behind.”
To that end, Erdman discovered the Mudd Puddle, located at the Water Street Market in downtown New Paltz, where she enjoyed a fresh cup of coffee and the atmosphere, and eventually ended up playing her folk/blues acoustic music. Soon she found herself running the café’s weekly open-mic event, where she met many people “who are still in my life and I became close to.”
In terms of her musical prowess, Erdman is humble. “I love the guitar; I bring it with me everywhere, because I feel sort of bare without it. But I think my strongest point is my singing. I love singing with others and not playing an instrument. I feel free that way.”
Erdman not only has a strong attraction to and passion for music, but for travel as well. Working as a waitress and a cook and various other jobs, her main goal has been to “save up for plane tickets. Some people save their money to buy cars or things; I save for travel. I just love to travel. I’ve got a bug that won’t let go!” she says with a beautiful smile.
At age 19, Erdman made her first sojourn across the seas to Poland, where she went to visit her neighbor in Long Island who was a Polish au pair. “I fell in love with Poland: the countryside, the cities, the people. It was an amazing trip.”
From there, Casey saved her pennies and went to London and Italy, spent six months traveling in Australia, to New Zealand, Peru and Argentina. “I prefer to travel alone, because I think I get more out of the experience,” she said. “I pick places that I’m interested in, but also ones that will challenge me. When I first get on the plane, I’m scared; but when I arrive, I realize that there are so many wonderful people in this world. Of course I’ve had a bad experience or two, but they are far outweighed by the kindness and generosity that people whom I’ve met for the first time have shown me.”
She gave an example of being in Australia on a dive boat, where she met three siblings who wanted to go together on a dive trip after their mother passed away. “They were the nicest people, so intelligent and full of life, and they just invited me into their home and took me to all kinds of places I would have never seen without them. That’s the kind of experiences I’ve had and I try to return when I come across foreigners visiting the States.”
While she has a love of travel, Erdman is also very comfortable and connected with New Paltz and the Hudson Valley. “I’m honored to work at the Mountain Brauhaus,” she said. “The owners are so amazing; I adore my co-workers; it is such a well-run restaurant and you could not ask for better clientele.”
While it is uncharacteristic for the family-owned German restaurant, nestled into the base of the Shawangunk Mountain ridge, to have live music, they have asked Erdman to play this Sunday, Dec. 11 from 7 to 9 p.m., where she will do her own folksy renditions of Christmas tunes.
As for her near future, Erdman can only say that she enjoys living in the area, working at the Brauhaus and the Winery and “working on my music. I plan to do a lot more of that over the winter. I used to have this naïve belief that creativity would just come to you without any work, but now I realize that it’s the work that leads to the creativity. I’m excited.”
Check out Erdman at the Brauhaus on Dec. 11, or by going to her website at www.caseyerdmanmusic.com. ++