From Sam Andrews, of Big Brother and the Holding Company:
"I did a lot of gigs with Steve Stefanowicz in Gig Harbor, Washington,
which always reminded me a little of Sausalito. Steve might be the most
inspired guitar player that I have ever played with. He gets going and he
just never stops. The passion and drive are amazing. Steve is blind and I
always enjoyed watching him change strings, fascinated with his grasp,
literally, of their millimeterness. His grasp of other things in life, like
relationships, is equally discerning and he gave me a lot of good advice
when I needed it."
Santa Stefanowicz’s gift
The Weekly Volcano
Nov 21, 2007 by Angela
Steve Stefanowicz releases new album,
A Midlife Christmas never sounded so cool.
I wasn’t quite ready for the holiday season this year. It
seems impossible that it could be time for Christmas shopping and
Thanksgiving celebrations already. No matter how many commercials
for diamond pendants and sport utility crossovers I saw on
television; I just couldn’t seem to get into the holiday spirit
at all. But then I received my first present of the year, a
Christmas CD titled Midlife Christmas by Steve
I’ve been a fan of his music for many years so I was tickled to
receive an advance.
Stefanowicz’s deft and seemingly effortless guitar skills and
his clear and gentle vocals make his Christmas CD the perfect easy
listening for this season.
The CD has 21 wonderful tracks, some traditional songs, some
lesser known holiday songs, a couple of instrumentals and lots of
personal touches and guest appearances by his friends and family.
Lucky for us, his friends and family are a talented bunch.
The CD is full of both humor and poignancy. For instance on Track
4, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” Stefanowicz and guest vocalist
Amanda Holbrook (pictured with Stefanowicz on the CD cover) break
from song lyrics into some dialog where they discuss his new car
(also featured on the CD cover).
“I plan on driving it too,” claims Stefanowicz, which is an
inside joke for those who know him.
Sarah Thornton plays violin and Rich Wetzel plays trumpet on Track
7, “I Believe in Father Christmas.”
Holbrook appears again on Track 9, “Ava Maria” showcasing her
lovely lilting voice.
The title track, number 10, “Midlife Christmas” is a new
original country-style Christmas song by Stefanowicz. It seems to
be a very frank account of where he’s been, where he is and
where he intends to go in his life. I think a lot of people will
I love the way Stefanowicz twists and bends the old songs into
something fresh and fun to hear. Track 11 is a fun, bluesy
rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Track 12 is a
scat-infused jazz version of “Silver Bells” full of air tight
harmonies. This song is so catchy that I think it might be stuck
in my head until well after New Years Day. After the toe-tapping
fun of the last three songs, I wasn’t emotionally prepared for
Track 13, “Christmas in the Trenches,” which Stefanowicz
dedicated to Spec. Michael Holbrook. Thornton’s violin is also
heard on this song.
When I heard it for the first time, I was driving my car wishing I
had windshield wipers for my eyes. The song tells the true story
of a temporary truce that occurred on a World War I battlefield
because one German soldier started singing a Christmas song and
pretty soon all the soldiers were singing along, which led to a
respite from the war. The soldiers from both sides drank brandy
together, played soccer and shared stories about their families
making it nearly impossible to return to the business of war the
following day. Sniff.
Stefanowicz rocks out on electric guitar during the solo of Track
18, “Winter Wonderland.” I also really enjoyed Stefanowicz’s
twanged-out version of “Jingle Bells.” I never thought of
“Jingle Bells” as a bad-ass cowboy song. I tell ya, the
creativity on this album is incredible.
Stefanowicz’s son helps out with “Rudolph the Red Nose
Reindeer” — so cute. On the last track on the CD, James
Holbrook joins Stefanowicz in a dramatic (and comical) reading of
the poem “The Night Before Christmas.” Holbrook reads lines
from the poem, and Stefanowicz attempts to recall from memory each
following line. He doesn’t always get it right, but the
commentary asides are hilarious.
If you’re feeling a little holiday resistant this year, I
recommend you light some candles, pull out those boxes of
Christmas decorations and listen to this CD while you deck the
halls and trim the tree. You’ll be in the Christmas spirit in no
Link to article: here
|The Weekly Volcano
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2007
By Angela Jossy
BLUES - Steve Stefanowicz
They call Steve Stefanowicz the "Human
Jukebox" because he has memorized over 1,000 songs and is
seldom stumped by audience requests. He does, however,
strictly enforce a $50 minimum tip jar donation for requests for
"Freebird", "Stairway to Heaven"
and "Hotel California."
He's usually a solo act, but has shared the
stage with musical greats like Lou Rawls, Sam Andrews' Holding
Company, Blue Spark, Junkyard Jane, The Groovin' Higher Jazz
Orchestra, local jazz guitarist Michael Powers, Savoy Brown,
Kansas and Elvin Bishop.
Sadly, he hasn't done many gigs in his hometown
Tacoma this year. He finds that the out of town gigs tend to
pay better, and Stefanowicz is a full time musician earning his
sole support through his music.
He's been busy recording, too. He recently
recorded two songs, "Georgia On My Mind" and
"How Sweet It Is" with Groovin' Higher Jazz
Orchestra for their new CD. Later this year he will release
a Christmas CD with traditional and contemporary holiday
songs. He has tentatively titled the CD Pass Out The
Fruitcake. If you haven't guessed it by now, Stefanowicz
has a great sense of humor.
His Saturday show at Mandolin Cafe is a rare
treat for a town that has been holding up lighters for him for
almost two decades.
from) The Mayn Thing/Rich Wetzel
winning writer for television, a former editor of Downbeat Jazz
Magazine, reviewer and feature article writer for numerous jazz
magazines including Jazz Times.)
While Rich Wetzel's third release
strengthens the trumpeter's links with the big band legacies of
Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Don Ellis, it declares in no
uncertain terms that his mayn man is still the
legendary screech king, Maynard Ferguson. ...
Rich has wisely chosen some outstanding
soloists, including two vocalists, to vary the well-balanced
A Country Boy provides a
slow respite, plus a chance for trombonist Tim Schartz to capture
the title most effectively. It also gives tenor player John Beach
and the whole band a chance to prove that it's possible to swing
with a nice loose feel. Even looser is vocalist Steve
Stefanowicz, who puts his personal, heartfelt claim on Georgia
On My Mind, serving notice that the song is not necessarily owned
by Ray Charles. Stefanowicz's second offering, How Sweet
It Is, reveals his strong boogaloo chops. ...
Also unlimited is the future of Wetzel's latest Groovin' Higher
edition. May it stay together until the future arrives. And may
Rich more often explore the beauty of pure melody as he does in Tenderly.
The Everett Herald
July 8, 2005
By Sharon Wootton
Special to The Herald
Steve Stefanowicz can cover more than 1,000
songs from James Taylor to Black Sabbath, the 1930s to 1990, but
his emphasis lately has been on originals. His show is now half
and half, and he'll take requests. He's light on the '90s because that's when he
started doing more serious writing of his own.
"There are a lot of things I'd like to say
that are easier to say with music than with words," he said.
So why all the covers at the start of his
"I didn't have any thing to say yet."
Stefanowicz performs Saturday in Everett.
He wasn't always a performer. "I was a social worker. One day I woke up
and I didn't want to do it anymore. I went into music
full-time," he said. Before that, music had been a hobby.
"I love being in front of people in that
way. I don't want to be the center of attention but I like being
part of the source of people having a good time," he said.
Stefanowicz has been blind since birth, but was
mainstreamed in Tacoma public schools. He has been a full-time musician since 1991.
He's performed with Lou Rawls, shared billing with Savoy Brown and
Kansas, and was Bluesman of the Year at the 1998 Tacoma Blues
Festival. He's made six albums, the most recent called
"Time," which covers 20 years of his songs. The title
track was written in 1984, with the help of a friend in high
school. "He was having relationship issues with his
girlfriend. That was the germination of the idea. I've been
capitalizing on his misfortune ever since."
Stefanowicz, who lives in Tacoma with his
6-year-old son, Michael, wrote a couple of the CD's songs with his
girlfriend Susan Scott, who also did the artwork and written
material for the CD. Stefanowicz's next project is a one-man version
of "Jesus Christ Superstar." "I'm doing all the music in the production
myself. I'm trying to pull it off with one guitar and once voice.
I may have to multitrack a little, but I'll keep it as stripped as
I can," he said. "I've always loved it, ever since I was a
kid. No one's done it (solo before). That's why I want to do it,
but I don't know if can be done.
Review - October 2004
heard Steve Stefanowicz play, whether solo, or as an opening act
or supporting musician in a live venue, you'd buy this CD without
hesitation. Time is his first solo CD effort,
recorded by the artist in his home studio. The album is a
compendium of old and new SteveTunes, with a couple of covers
tossed in. Songs include co-written efforts with friends old
(John Messina, Sean Gaffney, Dan Coughlin, Ron Cook, Carol
Dougherty) and new (Sue Scott and Katie Holbrook).
Performances on this CD are rendered on acoustic guitar, dobro,
banjo, acoustic bass, mandolin and Nashville high-strung guitar -
all played by the artist, with guest lead vocals and harmonies by
Vicci Martinez and Katie Holbrook. Stefanowicz's own vocal
variety ranges from BB King to James Taylor to John Denver to
track, Catch The Wind, is one of my favorites on the
CD, but hey, I'm an old folkie who enjoys high clear vocals and a
full Americana sound. The vocal textures in his rendition of
Lyle Lovett's Nobody Knows Me can only be described
as tasty, and for a guy who claims he isn't a mandolin player -
well, ...so much for modesty. The Summer Song is
a fine guitar instrumental that showcases Steve's ability to play
across musical genres. Time, the title track,
reminds us that "good times last forever/bad times fade
away" and rocks the listener, while Share The Rage,
a balanced guitar and vocal piece, takes us to a place where
"legend is as legend dies, and we lived way past then."
You is a fun, lively blues tune with ripping lead licks -
distinctively Stefanowicz - and a gutsy lead vocal that provides a
vignette to an older style of SteveTunes. His lead guitar
and vocal work on Desiree shine brightly. His
slide guitar work on Poor White Trash Love and Fanny
is reminiscent of David Lindley's work for Jackson Browne, circa
If you're a
stickler for squeaky clean production values and expect a highly
edited, transient-free recording - this one may not be for you.
Conversely, Time is an instrumental and vocal cornucopia that
engenders forgiveness for minor production anomalies as a trade
off for it's "live venue" sound. For more info
about this Pacific Northwest native son, blind singer/songwriter
Blind Ambition no more – Steve
Stefanowicz’s talent is in plain sight
Angela Jossy for the Weekly Volcano
would you do for a living if you couldn’t drive, read street
signs, newspapers or telephone books because you were born without
the ability to see? What if you also were the single parent of a
small child? Would you say a successful career in music would be
impossible for you to achieve and maintain? Maybe you would….if
you had never met Steve Stefanowicz.
learned the hard way that supporting a child as a single parent is
a tough job. But being without sight all his life and having
chosen a career as a professional musician, he was already
accustomed to taking on a challenge and kicking its ass.
a living wage in the music business requires not only great
musical skill but also a certain charisma, business sense and
marketing savvy. Many people reaching adulthood are forced to give
up on their musical aspirations because they find it too difficult
to support themselves – let alone a family. Stefanowicz already
knew that he was not like most people. As an already successful
blues/rock singer and guitarist, he had already overcome this
obstacle and has taken the challenge of parenthood in stride.
a tiny vision
three months pre-mature, Stefanowicz’s only glimpse of the world
was seen through plastic incubator walls. When his underdeveloped
retina was exposed to the oxygen inside the incubator it created a
separation causing his blindness. He doesn’t remember ever
being able to see, but where someone who lost the ability to see
later in life might see only darkness, Stefanowicz’s world is
one full of music, love and possibility.
many of his peers, Stefanowicz grew up in a music filled home.
Both of his parents were music lovers and both enjoyed singing.
Also at the age of four he began working with mobility instructor
Dave Maywalt who taught him how to walk with a cane and other
important skills for navigating the world as a blind person. They
became close friends through the years and Maywalt became another
influence that steered him toward his passion for music. “He
turned me on to a lot of good music” said Stefanowicz.
a youngster he tried his hand at playing several instruments
including violin and trumpet before settling at age 12 on the
guitar when his friend Greg Percy (now a renown artist in his own
right for his glass sculpture productions) lent him his. His early
guitar lessons were guided by instructor Mark Swanburg. By age 16
he was collaborating with friends and writing songs. His early
musical influences include Jimmy Page, Angus Young and Black
Sabbath. Later his songwriting influences were James Taylor, Dan
Fogelberg, and Lowell George of Little Feat. He also sited
influences from Warren Haynes (of the Allman Brothers and
currently with the group Government Mule). He learned finger
picking and slide guitar from instruction videos from artists like
the Allman Brothers.
he studied music at Central Washington University it became
apparent that playing guitar was more than a hobby. During this
time his musical range was stretched even further when he studied
classical guitar and jazz.
a nimble start
began what would become his career unknowingly at age 15 when he
began performing solo at places like the Antique Sandwich Company.
He also performed with his first band named (not-so-ironically)
“Blind Ambition” at places like Tacoma Little Theater, local
dances and hall parties.
then he has played solo or in other groups all over Western
Washington and has come to be known by club owners and fans as the
“Human Jukebox” because he has memorized over 1000 songs and
he is seldom stumped by audience requests. Steve has also shared
the stage with musical greats like Lou Rawls, Sam Andrews' Holding
Company, Blue Spark, Junkyard Jane, The Groovin Higher Jazz
Orchestra, local jazz guitarist Michael Powers, Savoy Brown,
Kansas and Elvin Bishop.
memorization is only one way in which it’s apparent that
Stefanowicz takes his music career very seriously. By 1991 he was
making enough money from his live shows to be able to quit his day
job and begin supporting himself solely with his music. People
often refer to him as “the hardest working musician in Tacoma”
because he has been known to gig 7 nights a week for extended
periods of time.
a shift in priority
days Stefanowicz says he has slowed down a bit, gigging only 3 to
5 nights a week in order to spend more time with his 5 year old
son. “My son needs a Dad.” He explained. “When it’s an
all-ages show he comes along and hangs out” he added.
comment “Being a single blind father isn’t easy” was only a
hint at the challenges he has faced. A little known fact is
that he once suffered severe panic attacks but overcame it in his
usual style – he did his homework. He studied books and videos
on the subject and learned to use relaxation techniques to quell
his anxiety. He even wrote and recorded song about it for his
he is no stranger to recording, this new CD entitled “Time” is
his first completely original album. Because audience satisfaction
is so important for creating fans and repeat bookings he
concentrated on playing familiar songs by famous artists and this
has been his bread and butter for years. These successes led him
to record and sell several CD’s of cover songs. Over the
years he started adding original songs to his set lists and soon
he was surprised by more and more requests from fans for his
original material. Release of this new CD is set for sometime in
July. Several CD release parties in the cities he plays most often
are being planned now.
his musical styles vary greatly depending on the venue and the
audience, Stefanowicz was named "Blues Man of the Year"
at the 1998 Tacoma Blues Festival. He was also on the nationally
syndicated “Locals Only” on the WB Network in March of 2003.
Last month Walter Kelly featured Stefanowicz on the "Local
Talent" portion of the May 12th edition of the Q-13 news.
current show calendar includes upcoming performances in Tacoma,
Woodinville, Renton, Puyallup, Port Orchard, Shelton and Seattle.
You can find him at 8:30 p.m. every Monday at Big Daddy’s in
Woodinville. The Harmon in Tacoma features him every Thursday
night at 8:30 p.m. and The Ale House in University Place has him
on Sundays at 7 p.m.
June 19 and 20 Stefanowicz will perform with his band at
Puyallup’s Meeker Days Festival. He has a full band performance
scheduled that Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on the Main Street Main
Stage. On Sunday he will appear on that same stage as a solo
acoustic performer at 1:15 p.m. and again with the full band at
addition to live performances he also offers private music
lessons. Students can receive his guidance on guitar, bass and
more information on Steve Stefanowicz shows, CD’s or music
lessons please visit www.stevetunes.com.
Steve Stefanowicz stays busy as music 'chameleon'
Nelson; The News Tribune
Photo by Katie Holbrook
Stefanowicz is a 36-year-old guitarist, singer, songwriter and
single dad. The fact that he is blind doesn't keep him from
being a professional musician or from having a clear sense of
what's important in his life.
Wilson High grad is a fixture on the South Sound club scene and
a popular entertainer at wedding receptions and private parties.
He also gives guitar lessons.
have to do what I have to do," he said. "I'm a single
dad raising a 5-year-old son, Michael, and that comes first.
Putting food on the table and making sure the bills are paid
every month - that's what I do."
help pay those bills on Sunday as part of a singer-songwriter
showcase at Jazzbones' 6:30 p.m. all-ages event. Stefanowicz
will perform on guitar and mandolin in a show with Garth Reeves
of Seattle's Blue Spark band and Tacoma's Vicci Martinez. After
individual sets, they will perform together to close out the
and I just did a gig at Mickey O'Reilly's that was a lot of
fun," Stefanowicz said. "I first worked with her when
she was like 14."
gifted guitarist has worked with a lot of South Sound musicians.
Blind since birth, he's been playing professionally since he was
21, sometimes in bands but often as a solo act.
now I'm doing more solo," he said, "just because it's
easier to get work that way. If I go into a place and play and
sing for three hours, I can make a lot more than I could with a
format does he prefer?
like them both," he said. "The solo stuff is fun, and
I've been writing more acoustic stuff lately, but it's fun to
play the blues and interact with other musicians. I like them
both for different reasons."
described himself as "kind of a chameleon" because he
plays whatever a situation calls for.
I have a three-hour gig, I like to throw in an hour of my own
stuff," he said. "But I know a million tunes, so
somebody can just call out a song and I'll play it. Sometimes
it's fun to see if I can pull it off, and that puts more money
in my tip jar.
I had my druthers, I'd play more blues and jazz, but there
aren't a lot of places that are receptive to that. They want to
hear like James Taylor or Dan Fogelberg and other stuff."
Sunday's show, he plans to play "some originals and some
blues. And I'll play my mandolin some of the time."
addition to gigs such as the Jazzbones show, Stefanowicz has
regular dates every Monday at Big Dad's in Woodinville and every
Thursday at the Harmon in Tacoma.
so much is putting a serious crimp in his reading.
problem is the calluses on my fingers make it tough," he
said. "I don't have as much sensitivity in my left hand, my
reading hand. I read music in Braille, too, so if I'm trying to
read a jazz chart it's kind of hard. I can do it, but it just
takes me longer. It's kind of like listening to music with an
some recent technology helps him read.
got a new computer, so I can find charts online," he said,
"and I've got a speech access program which reads my
screen. It reads the chords ... and for memorizing lyrics, it
lot of musicians dream of breaking into the big time.
Stefanowicz dreams, too, but his top priority is still in
could travel if the price were right," he said, "but
I've been to LA a couple times, and you get people promising you
this and that. ... I wouldn't be opposed to being given
opportunities in other markets, but right now the best thing for
me and my son is to stay close to home."
cover charge for Sunday's close-to-home show is $7.
Frazier reviews Steve Stefanowicz
I listened to Share The Rage and Catch The Wind as you suggested.
Both songs are great and I'm sticking them - and you - in my
favorites. You have a nice steady and real approach to each song
and the musicianship is on top. Well written lyrics both in the
story telling and leaving room for listener interpretation. The
lead guitar in Share the rage was very cool and I totally dug the
mandolin in Catch The Wind. Man, I wish I could play like that.
You have a solid vocal presence - mostly I get a country flavor
from it but sense that it works with some other genres. The
harmonies on Share The Rage were great - really filled it up.
Recording quality is up there and the mixes were very well done.
Both songs are very well constructed in terms of timing and
changes. Great work Steve. This is among the best of what I've
listened to here as a reviewer for several months. Thanks for
submitting your request and I look forward to listening to more of
your music. Michael
MUSIC PAGE http://www.soundclick.com/pro/?BandID=72868&content=music
HOME PAGE http://www.soundclick.com/michaelfrazier
Personal web site http://michaelfrazier.net
all jazz has its roots in blues anyway," said Groovin' Higher
bandleader Rich Wetzel, "and a lot of the tunes in our book
have a blues emphasis or orientation. And we're going to bring
Steve Stefanowicz in to sing 'Georgia' as kind of a Ray Charles
trying to turn Steve into a jazz and big-band singer," Wetzel
said with a laugh. "He did it at the Taste of Tacoma and just
nailed it. ... It was unbelievable, and we'll have him do a few
Tacoma News Tribune, July 9 2004
Tacoma Old Town Blues Festival article
"When it comes down to it, I close my eyes
when I play anyways. In music we are both blind and we let our
ears guide us instead of our eyes. That's how music should be
anyways. Steve is a great musician because of this and it is a
pleasure working with him." - Cliff Colon, Saxophone, The
Review from TalentMatch.com
Review By T Money Overall Score: 9
Steve Stefanowicz is Amazing
Some things are hard to explain with mere words. Steve's talents
are astounding. He can take any song and mold it into a beautiful
work of art. His Vocals are "searing". His range seems
endless. His guitar playing makes even the most talented
guitarists sit down and take notice. You need to experience one of
Steve many live shows. If you’re within 350 miles of one of his
shows, you got to make it. It is worth the drive!
|"This guy plays guitar like a lead trumpet
player, very aggressive--balls-to-the-wall." Rich
Wetzel, Groovin' Higher Jazz Orchestra
Meeting of Minds
24 , 2003
Siders ; The Tacoma Reporter
One of the most fascinating things to witness in the world of
music is the first meeting of two strong-willed, extremely gifted
performers – not in the “sitting-in” mode, but working
together for the first time. The protagonists in this case were
Steve Stefanowicz, the blind guitarist/singer, and Cliff Colon,
the Godzilla of the tenor. It took place last week at Gig
Harbor’s Jekyll and Hyde Pub, much to the delight of a full
house that didn’t know what to expect from the two any more than
Stefanowicz and Colon could have predicted what they’d play and
how they’d play it.
out it was like Jose Feliciano meeting Pete Christlieb. Of course
each one cheated a bit in preparation for their musical summit: I
was with Steve when he “caught” the tenor player working with
Rich Wetzel’s Groovin Higher Orchestra at Red Kelly’s club;
and moments before he headed for the stand at Jekyll &
Hyde’s, Cliff told me he had listened intently to some of
Stefanowicz’s albums. The quality players always do their
homework paid off handsomely. First they sparred – just tenor
and guitar – on “Masquerade” and “Girl From Ipanema,”
feeling each other harmonically, filling each other’s gaps. No
talk was necessary; jazz is a self-contained language. They goosed
each other to intense peaks, then released the tension. Not
instinctively; they listened to each other, which is why
Stefanowicz knew when to use a walking bass line on his guitar.
Steve’s rhythm section joined the front line: Kevin Dale,
providing a strong underpinning on bass; Kurt Kolstad, fiercely
swinging on drums, blurring the lines separating jazz, blues and
rhythm and blues. The momentum was so well-controlled, one would
think they had a library of written and well-rehearsed
arrangements. I knew the evening would go like that, even if Cliff
and Steve had no idea of the outcome. Individually, they will be
taking part in the Tacoma Jazz Festival, May 23-24. It’s safe to
say these two “young veterans” (oxymoronic, but acute) will
break up whatever venues they happen to grace.