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Rule Your Sound: Two Aerials Athletes Start Music Program

By Elise Saarela
March, 21 2019

The life of a winter athlete seems simple: sleep, ski, eat and repeat. In reality, many U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes have passions off of the mountain as well and dedicate their free time to mastering a multitude of other skills. From skateboarding to public speaking, these athletes have proven to be talented and well-rounded individuals.

Chris Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.) and Justin Schoenefeld (Lawrenceburg, Ind.) are two prime examples. The two have a shared love for music and often play the guitar together. Lillis has played the piano since he was five-years-old, and has played the guitar since he was 16. Schoenefeld is newer to the art and has been playing guitar for about a year. “I was sitting over at Chris’ house one day last season and he taught me two chords and here we are,” says Schoenefeld, “It’s definitely one of the best things I have started to do in my life.”  

Lillis and Schoenefeld play whenever they have the chance to. “We play on the road constantly, especially in places like China and Russia,” says Lillis, “It’s kind of a way that athletes, especially on the aerials team, relax before competition.”

With their shared passion, Lillis and Schoenefeld decided to expand their love of music to others and started a music program called PC Rule Your Sound. Starting in April of 2018, the program was set up to teach the youth of Park City how to play the guitar, the piano, or drums. Throughout the summer, the program provided individual lessons to 15 aspiring musicians, who are still being taught today. The program is more flexible than most, the students have the freedom to choose what they learn to play. “Our philosophy for the program is that you get to pick the music you want to play and then we teach you that style of music you like,” says Lillis. This has proved to keep the students interested in the lessons. “That’s why it is called Rule your Sound: the kids and parents have more control over what is learned than we do,” says Lillis.

In addition to individual lessons through PC Rule Your Sound, the two also taught a six-week after school program at Park City Day School, which they are hoping to teach again this spring after their competition season wraps. They give credit and thanks to local Jennifer Kandlser, who has a daughter that skis for Park City Ski & Snowboard and works with the day school. “She got us connected with the after-school program,” says Lillis. Another goal of the duo is to play gigs for restaurants, venues, and other events. “Gigs are welcome, we are cheap,” says Lillis.

Playing on a daily basis, teaching frequently, and learning new styles and songs every day, Lillis and Schoenefeld have expanded their knowledge of music and instruments. The two attribute their improvement in playing to the skills they have acquired through skiing and believe their training in aerials has helped them pick up music quicker. “We are already used to spending our entire day learning and practicing new aerials skills and having a certain approach to it, and I think you can take that to other aspects of your life,” says Lillis. Their dedication to mastering a certain trick, being meticulous about specifics, and using their brain constantly has helped them immensely in skiing and now in music.  

“We can play the guitar anywhere and forever,” says Schoenfeld, “Music is good for the soul.”

If you are interested in getting a music lesson from this aerialist duo, please visit