TRIBUTE TO STEVE
(April, 2017, for 'Lion' magazine)
(Published with permission of his
“It’s just about the music.” These 2006 words of Steve
McKenna’s well may have been his mantra.
When boarding at Wesley in the mid-70s he was inseparable
from his guitar. Many mornings, Steve could be found on his bedside, bent over
his guitar delaying till the very last his departure for breakfast in the Dining
Hall. Ultimately this passion found its fullest adolescent expression in a
scintillating solo at the 1976 Speech Night, breathlessly remembered, still, by
After a lifetime of performing and teaching music, Steve
died in February, 2017, aged fifty-eight, whereupon personal tributes flowed.
Steve’s worldwide admirers flooded social media, lovingly remembering his
collaborations, lessons and forthright critiques, deeply touching the hearts of
After early grounding under Melbourne jazz guitarist Bruce
Clarke OAM, Steve took lessons at Los Angeles’ Guitar Institute of Technology in
the early ‘80s that culminated in important teaching positions at Wollongong
University, Sydney Conservatorium, Germany’s Weimar Conservatorium, Australian
Institute of Music and London’s Guitar Institute of Music.
Beyond teaching though, Steve fundamentally was a
performer, composer and musical director, with much of his work recorded on
disc. He performed live in Australia, Asia and, between 1994 and 2002,
throughout Europe whilst his wife Liz taught in Germany, and the cherished Erin
and Jacob were born.
Steve’s respectful knowledge of the roots of his art and
the gifts of his peers richly informed his career, driving him to imbue his
students and audiences with this quality. He valued culture.
At Wesley, Steve was not academically inclined and
completed his Year 12 exams without much hope of conventional success. After
his last exam, he quietly told his Housemaster that he couldn’t prove his
knowledge in writing, but had attended all classes and knew that he had been
Such is his legacy.
following two audio interviews with Jazz and Beyond, heard
in chronological order, will be rewarding for those who would like to listen to
Steve's story and music philosophy in his own words.
(mp3; 20 mins 30 secs)
(mp3; 24 mins 20 secs)