Music is one of the most powerful forces on earth. It can evoke emotion, incite action, and generate memories in the span of one song. It is a form of expression and a feeling more than just sound. Music is a part of our everyday lives, but for those talented enough to be called “Music Makers” – like Stephen Henderson – it is much more! Stephen is an independent recording artist, singer/songwriter and producer since the age of 15 from Hana, Maui, Hawaii. With songs available on iTunes and completing his first cross-country tour earlier this year, Stephen is in every way a “Music Maker!”
His passion for music has been a central theme in Stephen’s life and his commitment to making it has allowed him to use music in ways most can’t even imagine. As a student at Stanford University, Stephen is majoring in Music, Science and Technology with an emphasis in Cognitive Neuroscience and Audio Engineering, serves as the Musical Director and Soundtrack Producer for the Stanford Student Organizing Committee for the Arts and has been featured in the Stanford soundtrack producing with one track as a singer/songwriter and two tracks as a producer, and has studied under MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Trimpin, completing two projects with him creating new experimental interactive instruments. He is co-founder of “The Red Couch Project” in Kimball Hall, and served as the Studio Manager and Arts Theme Associate there; completing an honors thesis, which includes research with the Center of Longevity and Center for Computer Research in music and acoustics focusing on Alzheimer’s and music; will be completing his Masters Degree in Music, Science and Technology; and most recently completed an internship playing music with Grammy award winning musician, George Kahumoku Jr.
As with most great things, these enormous accomplishments began with a small and simple act. Stephen says, “It just all started from picking up the guitar when I was around 12 years old and having the desire to say something that was different.”
Stephen says, “I grew up with two very musical families… from the get go music was a part of my life. Music was a part of everything that we did together as a family. Both sides, my Tongan side and my Hawaiian side, music has been a part of my whole life and the culture and what I’ve been raised in.” The first 8 years of his life he watched his dad manage Tongan 80’s stars, The Jets, and was well aware of his musical potential as a Wolfgramm; however when Stephen moved to Hana, he not only discovered that his Hawaiian family were all musicians as well but also an environment for him to fall even deeper in love with music.
Stephen says, “From day one I was in Hawaii I was picking up the ukulele and playing music, and sitting with uncles and playing music, and sitting with aunties and playing music, or with my cousins jamming… one of my uncle’s, Vincent Castro, kind of took me under his wing when I was about 14 or 15. He was a professional musician, slide guitarist, and would teach me things on the guitar that I would be able to add in my songs. Every time I wrote a song I’d sit down and play it for my parents, I’d play it for Kara [Stephen’s sister], I’d play it for my uncle Vincent, and ask them what they thought and just try to learn from it.”
By the time he was 18, Stephen had written 30 to 40 songs, but since then that has grown exponentially. Today he estimates he has written around 300 to 400 songs and doesn’t show any signs of stopping. For Stephen, music is about expression. It is the way he communicates, the way he shares his experiences, the way he perpetuates his culture and remembers his home.
He says, “Growing up and playing slack-key and growing up learning the older traditional Hawaiian songs from my Kupuna [my elders] and having my family there to play for every two or three days when I wrote a new song, having a community I was so comfortable being in front of and playing for without feeling a competitive edge or without feeling constrained in any way, became for me exactly what music means to me – it’s everything on the inside trying to come out. That’s what I felt Hana has been for me and for my music and I’ve taken it with me everywhere I’ve went. I study music at Stanford and learned all the techniques, ins and outs of production, but I’ve never lost the meaning. Music has stayed the center of the way that I talk the way that express, the way that I communicate what I feel and what I see, with the heart that I have.”
He goes on to say, “As Polynesians, our music tells who we are, it’s what our stories are, it’s the way we tell our experiences, and I can tell you that’s what every bit of my music has been – storytelling. It’s my favorite way to show what I’ve been going through or to show what I’m going through currently to people who are around me, and that’s a major influence in every way.”
Stephen is unquestionably a “Music Maker.” To him, music is more than a catchy tune, it’s a heritage, a legacy, and a home. That’s definitely Whatitdo!
-Article Written By: G_Writer