Straight from the Heart
Steve Armstrong is a bit unusual as a musician, not just for his extraordinary guitar playing and lovely songs, but because he is also legally blind and partially deaf. Steve began playing guitar in folk and rock bands at age fourteen. In high school he added jazz and classical to his skills. He chose to concentrate on classical guitar at Coe College in Iowa, completing a B.M. degree in 1974. Steve went on to study with Oscar Ghiglia, Jack Ceccini, and Eliot Fisk. In 1977 he began a Master's Degree program at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. After a year of study he returned to Coe to teach. Inspired by Pierre Bensusan and Michael Hedges, Steve took up steel string guitar and began composing solo guitar pieces for it. This led him to enter the American Fingerstyle Guitar Competition in Milwaukee in 1985. He won first prize in the performance competition, returning in 1989 to win the award for best composition for his song, "Missing You" (included on this CD). An article in FRETS magazine described Steve as playing with "Originality, expressiveness and technique", and saying, "He surely has a special gift, but he's also paid his dues developing it". One judge in the competition remarked after the final ballot, "I gave my vote to a player who was the only one who really moved me". In 1981, Steve married Ruth Ferris and they perform together regularly throughout eastern Iowa. Ruth's vocals are featured on the song, "Imagination Stirring the Air" which concludes with her singing nine harmony parts. Steve and Ruth live in Cedar Rapids Iowa with their Keeshonds Rosie and Foxy. Steve teaches guitar and Ruth works teaching music in elementary school. Steve describes the songs on the CD: Dad's Song: A Musical Gift of cheer for my Dad following a difficult business experience. Iowa Medley: Images of Iowa's subtle beauty, from Stone City's mist shrouded valley to the wind blown trees at Palisades State Park. Homage To Hedges: Thank you Michael for musically reminding me that there are always new directions to take in composition. Missing You: Grandma, how I miss your protective love. Cruisin' The Ave: Friday night on the strip. Pretty Eyes: A musical memory of my wife Ruthie's beautiful brown eyes when I am no longer able to see them. Keeshond's Jig: The antics of my two crazy dogs. Imagination Stirring The Air: Nature inspires my creativity. This song was for a commission by Coe College. Ocean of Corn: A Sound Painting portraying the parallel between the ever rolling ocean and the seemingly endless fields of windswept Iowa corn, as a land bound guitarist encounters two whales and their world. Imagination Stirring The Air Through my notes I might touch, touch your feelings Through my words I might touch, touch your thoughts Through my rhythms I may move, move you to dance Through my creation you may see with your imagination The eagle taught me not to question why it flies, nor why I create The seagull taught me not to accept things as they are, but to find my own way Flight is feathers moving the air, And the mystery of flight becomes a wondrous sight Music is imagination stirring the air And the mystery of music reveals itself through the ear Then slips away to become memory...