Meet Our Staff

We are a locally owned mom and pop shop with a commitment to supporting our local community and economy. We are proud to spend most of our purchasing dollars right here in Northampton, MA purchasing instruments directly from musicians, and using our large online reach to bring dollars back home.

You will find a friendly atmosphere, where the staff are here to meet you needs and we can build long term relationships to help you get the most out of your buying, trading, selling, learning, and repairing.

Jon Aronstein

Owner/manager, Head Luthier,
the “Pop” of “Mom-and-Pop”

Somewhat of a Renaissance Man, Jon has spent his first half of life absorbing as much as possible about many things and finally feels like he has met his match in Mill River Music. Having started playing guitar at the age of 12, and immediately jumping in to tinkering and taking apart, Jon attended the Leed's Guitar Maker's School in the mid 90's, studying with Brad Nickerson, Ivon Schmukler, and Bill Cumpiano and has spent many years repairing thousands of guitars and building a few dozen, and in the past was known to play em quite a bit too! Stints in cabinetmaking, carpentry, and furniture making also have added to Jon's skills.

Aside from craftsmanship, Jon spent many years working in sports coaching and movement training.  

Always one to prefer working for himself, steering the ship at Mill River is a natural move.

Sign: Capricorn

Musical influences: a little of everything

Other fun stuff: outside of the shop, Jon likes to ride and build mountain bikes, movies, playing and coaching tennis and soccer, and walking and hanging with the doggos

Gage Lyons

Consignment Manager, Long Game Player

Gage was introduced to the music world as a teen by his touring-musician brother-in-law and has been wholly obsessed ever since. His main instrument in guitar, but he also does vocals, caveman drums/bass, and mouth trumpet. In 2011 Gage moved to Western, MA and the raw, immediate experience of playing in bands, recording music, touring the country quickly became life. Gage has been an integral part of MRM since before its inception. “Connecting with human beings over instruments is always a fun and surprising experience. To be allowed to dive into different nerdisms and obsessions is so rare and special - the experience of helping another musician (whatever shape or form)  with their process is a hugely rewarding feeling. When people show up to the store with complex technical or life needs and we can serve them, there is no replacement for that feeling.”

Sign: Capricorn

Musical influences: Sixties/seventies psychedelia and reggae. Neil Young

Other fun stuff: Gage loves hanging out in nature, traveling and meeting strangers, making food, and talking about anything around a fire. “Analog recording has been a very fun rabbit hole aside from the discipline of guitar."

Jeff Gilmartin

Guitar Tech to the Stars, String Guru

A local yokel, Jeff started playing music as a wee lad. He picked up his first guitar around 12 years old and began working on his own at 16. Earning his degree in Classical Guitar from Holyoke Community College, he’s been working in music stores and professionally as a luthier since 2015. Guitar is really Jeff’s forte, but he can “entertain on other stringed instruments for a sec.” He recently started playing the otamatone while making dinner, and is constantly humbled.

Sign: Aries

Musical influences: “Bands, I hear music is cool. Really anything if it has a cool mission statement”

Other fun stuff: Jeff likes to ride bikes, eat and cook good food, and hang out with his cat, Otis

Nina Aronstein

Manager, Sales/Social Media, the “Mom” of “Mom-and-Pop”

A Hilltown girl, Nina played piano/keys as a teeny tot before finding voice as her true instrument as a teen. She earned her BS in classical/operatic vocal performance, then took a left turn: she worked in the fitness industry for a stint and was plowing through her PhD in molecular physiology of exercise when she and Jon met. Academia wasn’t as fun as being a shop owner, so when the need was there, Nina retired from professor-dom and came on board full time. “I love music, fell in love with a luthier, and love helping people find something that brings them joy and helps them express themselves. What else would I do?”

Sign: Cancer

Musical influences: Beatles, Gin Wigmore, Prince, Midnight Oil, Florence + the Machine, Caro Emerald, Queen, Zeppelin, Electric Guest, ZZ Ward, opera, anything I can move to

Other fun stuff: Nina loves to dance, “running is my jam,” mountain biking, photography, and especially walking/spending time/playing with the collies, Willow and Django

Helen Hummel

Customer Service, Step Stool Aficionado

Though Helen hails from Bristol, VT, don’t let the small town fool you. This one has Monstrous Acoustic Chops, snappy wit, and is just so much fun to play and be around. “Music has always been The Thing. I’ve pursued music as a singer/songwriter around New England and on both coasts, but never thought to pursue a “day job” in the music field. Then, one winter’s day, I came into MRM as a wide-eyed customer looking for a new acoustic guitar and never left!”

Sign: Capricorn

Musical influences: Jeff Buckley, Anaïs Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Andrew Bird

Other fun stuff: Besides music-ing at MRM, Helen does stop-motion and digital animation, swimming, camping/hanging/exploring in the woods, swimming, making art out of tiny trashtreasure, and swimming.

Eli Salus-Kleiner

Customer Service, Product Master

Eli’s our West-Coast guy, coming to us by way of Hampshire College. He started playing piano at 7, and jazz lessons were the first thing that got him excited about playing. Fully immersed in music since college, Eli’s been working at MRM and has played in a number of bands including Sun Parade, Owsley’s Owls, Bucket, and New Mom. “Being here at MRM is great, cuz it’s great to be around the tools of the world I love all the time. It's a fun and great way to serve the community, and it feels good to get gear to everyone who needs it.”

Sign: Aries

Musical influences: Herbie Hancock, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Steely Dan

Other fun stuff: along with music, Eli likes hanging out with people, swimming in the summer, and is super into podcasts at the mo’!

Chris Whearty

Guitar Tech Maestro, Banjo Ninja

Chris is all in. In high school he borrowed his girlfriend’s guitar and never stopped playing. As soon as he realized he could also learn repair, he jumped right in. Keen to always be around music, as a junior at UMass Chris started working at Fretted Instruments in Amherst, and the rest is history. Though guitar is his main instrument, Chris also bass, keys, and banjo, and “vaguely” plays the mandolin and drums. He joined our team in December 2020 and we’re psyched to have him! “Guitar and music is all I want to do, always.”

Sign: Libra

Musical influences: Steely Dan, Doc Watson

Other fun stuff: Chris enjoys building and fixing things, drinking coffee, and practicing bluegrass

Martin Cain

Wizard of the Electronics Repair, Wrangler of Weird Stuff

You’ll most likely find Martin repairing weird and wonderful electronic gear in our back room! From a family of engineers, inventors, musicians and artists, he combines these loves here at MRM. During childhood he dabbled in guitar and keys, then began modifying and building his own equipment as a teen. He came to the Pioneer Valley as a student at Hampshire College where he helped teach the Creative Electronic program.   

“I am motivated by a love of music, a fascination with electronics, and a desire to end throw-away culture. I see repair as an act of resistance against the rampant exploitation of our planet's resources. I am also delighted that my interest in electronics and audio technology fits a useful niche here at Mill River Music”

Sign: Libra

Musical influences: Aphex Twin, DJ Metatron, The Knife, Tim Hecker

Other fun stuff: Martin’s outside interests include history, specifically the history of religion, science and technology. A nature lover, Martin also studies bodywork (shiatsu) and herbalism, and values both nature awareness and holistic health as spiritual paths

Sam Perry

Doctor of Social Media, Effects Master

Sam started playing the guitar at 13 after seeing School of Rock - “It made me want to play!” and he’s been playing ever since. Along with guitar, Sam plays a mean bass, sings, and dabbles in keyboards, but his main squeeze is effects. He’s always been in love with the electric guitar and effects, and has been in many bands over the years including Dios Trio; Old Flame, and his new solo project SVIP. You’re most likely to see Sam on our social media doing demos and helping customers in the shop. “I’m a total pedal nerd and if you come into the shop with questions about pedals, I'm your guy!”

Sign: Aquarius

Musical influences: Jack White; Jimmy Page; Sigur Ros; Tera Melos

Other fun stuff: an avid fan of ragdoll cats, Sam owns two (William Shakespurr and Daenerys Fluffborn) and wants a third. He’s also a cocktail and literary nerd, movie buff, and loves to travel

Julia Sabbagh

Shipper Extraordinaire, Master Doodler

Julia picked up guitar at 8yo and started lessons for jazz at 12-13. In college she played in a few bands but mainly took a hiatus into the visual arts for a bit. She came back to WMass to get back into the music scene and joined MRM, and the fun hasn’t stopped since! Why MRM? “I get to meet musicians, learn about instruments, and love helping people find the things that bring them joy–seeing them be like kids again when they get a new toy. It’s a really sweet feeling.”

Sign: Capricorn (yep, another one)

Musical influences: Everything, lots of indie and punk, grew up playing punk and jazz. Anything indie, pop, funk. Literally everything.

Other fun stuff: Julia loves being by the ocean and touching water. Also, oatmeal soup, pizza, and ice cream. That’s the best day to incorporate all four. She’s also into visual art/doodling (Julia’s an awesome artist), and trying to get back into whittling–also a good smell–and working on home recording and producing. “And I have a pair of flame Heelys I like to break out when I’m feeling fun.”