“When it comes to music I don't discriminate. If I like it, I like it and can always learn from it. I have always had an open mind about it.”
Put six kids and two adults in a three-bedroom apartment… add in one set of drums, and what do you get, besides some neighbors who are not really thrilled? You get drummer, Stevo Theard.
Stevo grew up in L.A. and his drum set fit nicely into the three-level, Spanish style home that he, his five siblings and parents lived in. Right around the time that Stevo got serious about drumming, the family moved into tight quarters. “My Dad decided to return to school. Our family moved from L.A. to Irvine. He decided to become a physician. He returned to medical school at age 40 and moved the whole family from a really nice house in L.A., to a very small, thinly-walled, three-bedroom apartment…like grad student housing at UC-Irvine. It was very strange. I put my drum set in the living room. Besides the people in the apartment – my brothers, sisters and my parents – there were lots of people in the building. We were on the third floor, the walls were thin and I practiced every day in the afternoon.” Thankfully, his mom would tell the neighbors that he was really serious and that he had to practice. They decided on a time, and everyone just dealt with it.
There was a time, though, when the drums were not Stevo Theard's focus. A piano was always part of their house, and he started lessons at age ten. His dad was a huge jazz fan and also played piano. Stevo really took to the piano; that was until he discovered baseball! “A friend of mine played little league, and invited us (my brother and me) down. And I was good! I had a natural ability. I fell in love with baseball and played all positions. And for a while I didn't care about the piano.” But one day, he found a set of congas in his house, began fooling around with them, and was hooked. The boyfriend of a friend's sister played congas and Stevo would go over there, listen to music, and mess around with his congas. That was the start of actually thinking there could be a career in music. The drums came at about age 14 with lessons from a neighborhood guy who wanted Stevo to teach him congas. “He taught me for two to three months. Then I went on my own. After that I would find different teachers for different things like improving my reading, my hand movement. There were lots of musicians you could call up and ask for lessons. And they would do it! At about age 15, I bugged my parents enough to get me my own drum set. That was when I got pretty serious about it.”
Listening to and influenced by such artists as the Beatles, Rolling Stones. Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye, as well as classic jazz artists John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Stevo learned to appreciate all kinds of music. But his hero was drummer Lenny White who played with Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke, and Stan Getz, among others. So he kept practicing, and that practice paid off in the form of a job as drummer for Terence Trent D'Arby. That relationship lasted for several years, giving Stevo one of his best performance memories. “We were playing a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden. I remember sort of looking down at myself, you know, like coming out of my self and looking back at me thinking this is so cool!” Then came the Dave Koz years. In 1996, while playing a gig at the Troubador in L.A. with a local singer, Stevo met Dave, who was invited by the singer's writing partner. Months later Dave called Stevo to audition for his new band. “I was the only drummer called, so I figured the job was mine!” That job has now lasted nine years and has given Stevo more exposure to fans, as well as the opportunity to work with some of the best in the business, including Michael McDonald, Patti Austin, James Ingram, and Jeffrey Osborne.
When not touring with Dave Koz, Stevo can be found these days working on his own CD, due to be released this fall. “It's more along the lines of a chill-out kind of vibe. Lots of percussion and Latin rhythms. Latin lounge is the description I've heard,” notes Stevo. And, spending as much time as possible with his son, and the rest of his family, is also a priority.
Visit Stevo's website: http://gumbochild.com/
- Bonnie Schendell