Leigh Howard Stevens
2006 PAS Hall of Fame inductee
“The world’s greatest classical marimbist …
Stevens has revolutionized the playing of the instrument.”
— TIME Magazine
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. Much of this unaccompanied literature was considered technically and musically impossible by one player until the development of Mr. Stevens’ new system of four-mallet technique. Percussionists and marimbists worldwide have adopted his revolutionary approach and his book on the subject of four-mallet marimba technique, Method of Movement, has been translated into six languages.
It is difficult to find a single aspect of marimba technique, repertoire or design that has not been profoundly changed by the work of Mr. 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 1980’s to the first fully-tunable resonators in the 1990’s; from one-handed rolls and baroque ornaments to the use of 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 these concepts and developments are now used routinely by players and teachers around the world, and in fact, have become synonymous with contemporary marimba playing. It is no exaggeration to say that Mr. Stevens has not just been at the cutting edge of the development of the marimba in the last 30 years – he has been the cutting edge.
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 thirty world premiere performances by Mr. Stevens. The first performance of Raymond Helble’s Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra by Mr. 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 general public – converted by Mr. 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 international broadcast, New York, New York. His celebrated musicianship, imaginative programming and exciting performances have inspired critical acclaim and standing ovations in 48 of the United States and 18 other countries. Mr. Stevens introduced the marimba to The People’s Republic of China in a televised performance that reportedly reached an audience of 800 million viewers.
In addition to performing exclusively on an extended-range Malletech Marimba of his own design, he serves as a consultant and conducts educational masterclasses for Malletech. Mr. Stevens taught for many years at the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, where he was Professor of Marimba. He has been awarded nine U. S. Patents for marimba design and 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.