Professor Profile: Steve Watson

By Jonathan Painter, Contributor

Steve Watson.jpg
Steve Watson, a jazz studies professor at Furman, has released two records and is currently working on a new CD. Photo courtesy of stevewatsonguitar.com


Q: I know that you are a jazz guitarist in the music department. Could you tell me about that?

A: My place here at Furman is in the jazz studies department as a jazz guitar instructor. I teach private lessons for guitar and bass. I teach a section of implied improvisation as well, so I’ve had violinists and flutists. Any instrumentalist can learn to play jazz. I also teach two combos, which are small jazz groups, and I teach a jazz history course offered in the spring semester.


Q: How long have you been working at Furman?

A: I’ve been working at Furman since 2002.


Q: You have quite an impressive list of musical accomplishments. You’ve played in bands all over the world, you’ve done studio guitar work for a number of classic television shows. Could you tell me more about that?

A: In Los Angeles in the 80’s I was a session guitar player for the Hill Street Blues, Magnum P.I., the A-Team, all of these television shows. I also taught at the University of Southern California.


Q: What lead you to pursue a career in music, and later teaching?

A: Well, I went to the University of Miami for my master’s degree in jazz performance. I had played my whole life since I was a little kid, but that really focused me. I met a lot of really good “like-focused” people, Bruce Hornsby being one. We got together and played a lot there. I joined his band and we all moved to Los Angeles together; that’s what took me out into LA. So, you know, it was being in a really focused university, something like Furman [that lead me to pursue a career in music.]


Q: Working off of that previous question, were there any teachers, mentors or people who helped contribute to your choosing this path?

A: I think my first guitar teacher, Charles Wood, here in Greenville [helped me choose this path]. I took lessons from him when I was a little kid in second grade all the way through high school. The teacher at the University of Miami, Whit Zeichner, [had a big influence on me] and then when I was in Los Angeles, the guy I worked for a lot was named Mike Post. He was a great musician, with great talent. He certainly influenced me a lot in the way I play and the way I teach.


Q: Have you got any projects or gigs you are currently working on?

A: I’ve released two records of my own. One in 2011, which was “Watson’s Riddle,” and I released a record a year ago under my own name, Steve Watson, called “Heat It Up.” I’m also working on a new CD now that will be out this year.


Q: Before we wrap this up, do you have any advice for aspiring musicians, or the student body as a whole?

A: To become the best musician you can, you need to figure out what area you would like to go into, and study it with intense detail. Who were the great players? How did they play? Can you play like them? Whatever field it is, to be the best musician you can, you have to study with intensity. That’s the same in any field.


Q: One last question: What, in your mind, is the coolest thing about being a teacher, or a musician, or both?

A: I think it’s that you get to do something every day that you love. It’s not like going to work. It’s like, “Okay, I’m going to go play music, and teach music, and inspire others.” You’re not like, “Ugh, I have to go in there all day and do the same thing.” I just get to do my thing every day. That’s really hard to beat.





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