Classical guitarist’s influence ranges from Bach to Beatles

Is your calendar handy? If so, here is a date you might make a note of:  Nov 2. It’s when classical guitarist Jeffry Hamilton Steele will be in concert (following a 6:30 potluck supper) at Lakeview Congregational Church, 4606 S. 108th St. in Lakewood.

The theme of the program is “The Bach Family Takes a Rio Holiday,” with music composed by the baroque genius, J. S. Bach, and two Brazilians, the late Jobim (think “Girl from Ipanima”) and the prolific composer, Bonfa, who could make his instrument sound like an entire orchestra.

If you miss this programs, you can hear Steele’s work by going to his website,  where you will find a large array of audio files as well as listings of his appearances.  His work today is the result of a richly varied background that began with the first appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964.

Like many of his contemporaries, Steele wanted to emulate the Beatles, to play their kind of music, to be a rock musician.  His father had an old, steel-string Hawaiian guitar that became Steele’s first string instrument (he also played piano, the recorder and the trumpet).  Five years later Steele found his way from New England to Bethel, New York and the phenomenon that was known as Woodstock.  The legendary rain did not dampen his enthusiasm but the theft of his guitar was an event not soon forgotten.

Steele speaks of insights and experiences that helped form his work and style.  For example, there was a time when he listened to his mother practice at home on one particular piece over and over on the cello.  By chance one day, that same piece was aired on television and, Steele reports, he was transported by his own familiarity with the piece, with the satisfaction in being able to anticipate what was coming next. This experience became part of what drew Steele to classical music.  Later it was a roommate’s dedicated practice sessions that modeled commitment for Steele, providing a window to what he should expect for the future.  In the mid 80’s Steele spent two summers in Nicaragua, an influence heard in his music today.  Drawn also to all things that comprised Renaissance arts, Steele became acquainted with mime and all the costumes and courtly gestures of the period. This training became useful over the years and into present day programs, especially those that are collaborations with other musicians and dancers.

Along the way, Steele became certificated by the state of Massachusetts in elementary grades music instruction. He taught both in the classroom as well as giving private lessons. He went on to earn a Masters in Musical Composition from the New England Conservatory of Music.  Although he did live and work in western Massachusetts for five years, most of his teaching and performing was done in the Boston and Gloucester areas where his 87-year-old mother still lives.

In 2009, Jeffry and his family moved to Tacoma where once again he became teacher certified.  Although he worked as a classroom teacher, he found himself increasingly moved toward providing individual instruction.  Steele has recently opened his home studio for teaching purposes, and he is accepting students, as young as second to fourth graders with parents’ presence, to the golden-ager.  In all instances, Steele will work to assure the student’s familiarity and working competence with the basics before moving forward.  So, experience is not required, only the desire to participate in the joys of classical music.  If you or someone you know might be interested in lessons, you can reach Steele at 252-970-8602.