Chuck Stevens
FLUTE Member Of The Week

December 27/99 to January 2, 2000

I was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1944, but spent most of my early life around Central Texas. My work in computers took me to Southern California in 1984, where I now reside with my wife and family.

I began playing the flute in the fall of 1953 as part of the school band program in a small Texas town named Boerne. I transferred to Central Catholic High School in San Antonio starting in my junior year. Bro. Leo Schaefer, SM, the band director, was a strong believer in teaching classical music, and the CCHS band played a high percentage of classical works during the two concert seasons I was there -- the likes of Beethoven 5, Tschaikowski 1812 Overture, William Tell, Il Signor Bruschino, lots of Von Suppe overtures, and the overture to Die Fledermous come immediately to mind. My first "stand-up" solo was the Minuet from Bizet's "L'Arlesienne" with the band. I also played the Briccialdi Variations on the Carnival of Venice, at a talent show., and did a pretty creditable job (if I do say so myself) of Saint-Saens "Airs de Ballet d'Ascanio" for solo contest.

Around this time I took my first formal flute lessons, with John Hicks, then principal flute of the San Antonio Symphony, partly to satisfy my parents' curiosity as to whether I should pursue a career as a professional flutist. Mr. Hicks expressed the opinion that I would probably be happier as an amateur, and in retrospect some forty years later I would have to say I think he was right.

My academic career was checkered; I graduated from high school, but spent an extra year in college prep courses at Keystone School in San Antonio, went to Rice in 1962 (tried band briefly, but wasn't motivated to stay in), dropped out of school altogether in March, began again as a freshman at Rice in the fall of 1963, finished that year, went to the Naval Academy at Annapolis (again as a freshman, though with significant advanced placement credits!) for a semester, took a semester off, and finally received my degree from the University of Texas at Austin in June 1967 (six years after I'd received my high school diploma).

One of the notable events in my musical life during this period was being asked, as a Plebe at the Academy, to play the Marine Corps Hymn, solo with muffled snare accompaniment, for the Commandant of the Marine Corps at the formal Corps birthday celebration in Memorial Hall at Annapolis in November 1965. And so far as I know I was the only piccoloist ever to be a regular player in the Academy's Drum and Bugle corps! I was also in two choirs and the Concert Band at Annapolis.

At UT Austin, I involved myself primarily in choral activities, because the instrumental programs there were competitive, but I spent most of my leisure time around the music department there. Being a hanger-on around the music community was a pattern I continued for many years.

In 1969 I moved to San Antonio, partly because my closest friends and the overwhelming majority of my social life had come to revolve around members of the San Antonio Symphony. I formally (though sporadically) studied with Bernie Birnbaum, the second flutist of the symphony. I continued my choral activities, joining the San Antonio Symphony Mastersingers, the symphony's choral arm under the direction of Roger Melone, and in that organization had some wonderful experiences in choral works (with and without orchestra) and in operas. And in general, just being around professional classical musicians that much of the time was an invaluable experience in teaching me at least some degree of musicality.

Throughout this period I had elected to remain in San Antonio at all costs to my career. In September of that year my company finally convinced me that I could advance no further in the company without either moving into management or accepting a significant relocation offer, and they graciously moved me and my belongings to Southern California in September 1984. This new position became a very satisfying career, and I continue in that position today.

Since moving to California, my formal participation in musical activities has been limited pretty much to performances on flute at church services and the weddings of friends. But over the last few years, attempting to improve my technique for such exposed performances has prompted me to practice more, and ultimately motivated me to get instruments that better suited my needs. My playing, I believe, has improved dramatically since I'm called upon to perform on a regular basis, and since my equipment upgrades!

I discovered Larry Krantz' wonderful FLUTE page in early 1997, and from there, began active participation in the FLUTE list in March of that year. And I hope I've been able to bring to this list some of the understanding and knowledge that was so freely given by my teacher, Bernie Birnbaum, by the various members of the San Antonio Symphony and Mastersingers that formed such a significant part of my life, and by David Colvig, who worked so hard for so many years to keep my old LeBret in good order!

I'm grateful to have been chosen for this honor, and I hope to continue to be of service to the FLUTE community.

Chuck Stevens


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