GREAT BARRINGTON -- Jeff Stevens, the longtime musical diretor of the Monument Mountain Regional High School Band, ought to have a business card that says, "Have trumpet -- will travel."
That's because Stevens, a Great Barrington native who has been playing trumpet for 47 years, has been a huge part of the Southern Berkshire musical scene for 30 years and more.
His influence comes in part through his wildly successful musical program at Monument Mountain High School: Graduates of the program play in bands all over the country.
But Stevens' other key contribution is as one of hottest horn men in Berkshire County. From the legendary Bluestars in the 1980s to the Wanda Houston Band these days, Stevens has played everything from weddings to orchestras.
He has played with the Barrington Stage Company, the Berkshire Opera, the Berkshire Bach Society and the Berkshire Brass Quintet. He has performed with John Williams, Kenny Rogers, Arlo Guthrie, David bromberg, Natalie Cole, Yusef Lateef, Ernie Watts and many others.
Stevens spoke to The Eagle in an interview about his varied career.
Berkshires Week: How did you get interested in music?
Jeff Stevens: Early on, both my parents were interested in music. My father, Frank, was into big band music, and he was in a band for a while. My mother, Marilyn, was an amateur singer.
BW: When did you start playing the trumpet?
JS: When I was 10, I started taking lessons at the Housatonic elementary School.
BW: Any early influences?
JS: Oh, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Doc Severinson on television. A lot of people. I got to know Roger Voisin, the principal trumpet for the Boston Symphony for many years.
BW: What was your first paying gig?
JS: Well, I played in college, but my first real working job was with the Bluestars. I joined them in 1983.
BW: A great roadhouse band. And, in fact, some of those guys still play in Steve Ide's band, the B.T.U.s.
JS: Yes. It's the B.T.U.s most of the time, and when they have a horn section, they're Advanced Phunk.
BW: Hmm. I didn't realize that's how it worked.
JS: Yeah. The thing is, there aren't a lot of venues in the Berkshires for a seven-piece band.
BW: Good to know. I saw the website you're on as a part of the Wanda Houston Band. It seems as though you have played with just about every organization in Berkshire County that might need a horn man.
JS: Well, basically, any time someone needs a trumpet player, I try to get involved.
BW: Your other hat, so to speak, is as the musical director of the Monument Mountain High school Band department. How long have you been doing that?
JS: Thirty-one years.
BW: Wow. How long has there been a band program?
JS: Well, 31 years. I was hired to run it.
BW: So you really are the man.
BW: This is a highly successful program, maybe the most successful one in the county in terms of participation. Do you enjoy teaching?
JS: Every day is a challenge. But as long as kids come into the program, and they're excited about music, I'll enjoy it.
BW: Why is this such a successful program?
JS: I think it's because the district is so supportive of the arts in general, including music. So being in the Monument Mountain band is cool. The kids are respected. They aren't considered geeks or nerds. A lot of them are leaders in the school. That's a positive thing.
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