Leigh Howard Stevens
Leigh Howard Stevens’ repertoire ranges from Renaissance music and the Preludes and Fugues of J. S. Bach, to original marimba works written by contemporary composers expressly for him. Many of these original compositions were considered too challenging, both technically and musically, to be performed by solo marimbists until the development of Mr. Stevens’ new system of four-mallet technique. Percussionists and marimbists, the world over, have adopted his revolutionary approach to 4-mallet technique, as set forth in his ground-breaking book, Method of Movement, which has been published in six languages.
There isn’t a single aspect of marimba technique, repertoire or design that has not been profoundly influenced by the work of Leigh Howard Stevens. From “Stevens Grip” to the types of motions used to play the instrument; from the length and material of the mallet handles to the wrapping and stitching of the heads; from the first height-adjustable all wooden marimba frame in the 1980s to the first fully-tunable resonators in the 1990s; from one-handed rolls and baroque ornaments to the use of expressive contrasting roll types; from the early polyphonic Helble Preludes to the works of John Serry, David Maslanka and Joseph Schwantner, to his own original compositions and transcriptions.
Considered “revolutionary” at the time, many of his ideas are now considered to be basic technique, and in fact, have become routine in contemporary marimba compositions and performance. It is no exaggeration to say that Leigh Howard Stevens has been at the very heart of the growth of marimba repertoire, development of its pedagogy, and improvement of the instrument’s design over the last 45 years.
This fresh approach to music making on the marimba has greatly expanded the instrument’s compositional possibilities, stimulated composer enthusiasm for the marimba’s use in solo and chamber music and ultimately led to a series of more than 30 world premiere performances by Mr. Stevens. The first performance of Raymond Helble’s Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra by Leigh Howard Stevens and the Denver Symphony in 1980 was a milestone in the development of marimba literature. His digitally recorded all-Bach album has been greeted with rave reviews for its artistry by magazines as diverse as Stereophile and Billboard.
Devoted marimba lovers have sprung up all over the world – both players and the general public – converted by Leigh Howard Stevens’ solo recitals, hundreds of college campus appearances, concertos with symphony orchestra, European concert tours, masterclasses and radio and television appearances both here and abroad. He has been featured in Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and appeared on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and Voice of America’s internationally broadcast, New York, New York. His celebrated musicianship, imaginative programming and exciting performances have inspired critical acclaim and standing ovations in 48 states in the USA and in 18 foreign countries. Mr. Stevens introduced the marimba to The People’s Republic of China in a televised performance in 1994 that reportedly reached an audience of 80 million viewers.
Mr. Stevens is the founder and chief creative force behind Malletech, the world leader in design and manufacturing of keyboard percussion instruments used by professional percussionists. He has been awarded nine U.S. Patents for musical instrument design. In addition to performing on a 5-octave Malletech Marimba of his own design, he also led the creative team that developed the company’s game-changing OmegaVibe and LoveVibe. Mr. Stevens taught for many years at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, where he was Professor of Marimba. He was elected to the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2006.
Mr. Stevens can be heard on past releases of the Delos, Musical Heritage Society, Musicmasters and CRI record labels, as well as current releases on Resonator Records.