Artist Spotlight

Andrew LaCombe

(Mia Lerch)

Nutty. That’s how Louis Steptoe describes himself. This enthusiastic violinist, conductor and teacher will be giving his senior recital Monday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. in Harper Hall. Steptoe will be playing works by Beethoven and Dvorák, which is pretty typical for a violin recital. But also on the program is a work that displays Steptoe’s nutty side: “Ferdinand the Bull.” Solo violin and narrator will tell the popular children’s story written by Munro Leaf.
“The violin embodies the different characters, like the proud matador and carefree Ferdinand,” Steptoe explained. “My favorite is Ferdinand’s worrisome mother, a cow. It includes a lot of weird sounds that you normally don’t find in violin music. It’s just a fun piece.”
Playing music outside the realm of classical music isn’t new for Steptoe; he enjoys Celtic, bluegrass and jazz music. At Lawrence, he has played in a jazz combo, and last year he performed with the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, playing a piece titled “Itsbynne Reel,” which combined elements of Celtic and jazz.
The inspiration to play violin came from Steptoe’s grandfather, also named Louis. The younger Steptoe started playing piano at age six, but after one recital his mom suggested that he play violin because his grandfather, also named Louis, was a jazz violinist. Young Louis was given his grandfather’s violin and he still plays on that instrument today.
Steptoe definitely still enjoys playing classical music, though – especially with other people.
“The reason why I love music in general is playing in a group,” he said. “It’s so much fun.”
Chamber music is especially fun for Steptoe when he gets to play viola. He noted that this instrument is liberating for him, and not as scary as violin. The opportunity to make music on a more personal level than in a large orchestra is also very appealing to Steptoe.
However, his favorite playing experiences are in orchestras. As a four-year member of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra, Steptoe has taken on many roles including head librarian, assistant principal second violin and student assistant conductor. He will be on the podium during his final LSO concert in May to conduct Glinka’s “Russlan and Ludmilla Overture.”
Steptoe, an instrumental music education major, has spent a lot of time studying conducting with Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies David Becker. This has been very inspiring for Steptoe as he aspires to teach at a high school level, and possibly beyond that someday.
“He has opened my eyes and ears to music,” Steptoe commented. “He has given me a behind-the-scenes look at an orchestra and helped me become prepared to go in front of any group and do a good job of communicating my musical ideas to the audience. He has taught me to be there for the orchestra and not for myself.”
As nutty as he is, Steptoe undoubtedly has a strong passion for music and music education. Come and check it out on Monday night in Harper Hall.