R.I.P. Guitarist and Teacher Steve Maase (Updated)

Steve Maase. Photo courtesy of the family.

Steve Maase. Photo courtesy of the family.

Known to generations of Albuquerque music fans and students, guitarist and teacher Steve Maase passed away last weekend, quietly and peacefully in his sleep of “complications due to an underlying heart condition, peacefully and in his sleep,” report his daughters, Lily Maase and Ari Nicole.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve earlier this year for a piece in Albuquerque The Magazine (reproduced below). I found him to be a thoughtful, warm, patient, and generous-spirited man—essential characteristics for an effective teacher. We covered a lot of territory in our chat, from the new book he was about to publish to the changing conditions for live performance in Albuquerque and beyond, to the rewards of teaching, to his pride in his daughters (both are musicians).

His passion for playing and teaching came through loud and clear, even though he spoke quietly and evenly. He began teaching because it was a steady source of income, and he had a family to support. He discovered that he had a talent for it, and he seemed to me to love it about as much as he loved playing—and he loved playing guitar. He told me that he intended to play and to teach until he couldn’t, and he did.

Update: A celebration is scheduled for Saturday, October 8. You’ll find details here.

Booking on It
(adapted from the March 2016 issue of Albuquerque The Magazine)

Guitarist and teacher Steve Maase (rhymes with maze) credits his curiosity, desire, and good ear for allowing him to learn how to play the instrument and to absorb enough music theory to play engagingly. “Music basically taught itself to me,” he says.

He’s been returning the favor for the last 40 years, patiently teaching guitar and music theory to others, including his two daughters, Lily Maase and Arielle Nicole, both of whom have followed him into musical careers, in New York and Austin, respectively. This month, he’ll be extending his teaching reach beyond his studio, with the publication of Music Theory You Can Use (Divergent Publishing), a book written with daughter Lily, who describes it as “a practical overview of the fingerboard as seen through the eyes of my father.”

“It’s not just strictly technical stuff on the guitar,” says Maase. “A lot of it is kind of autobiographical—what my experiences were with music, how I got involved in it, just how it progressed through the years, how I got involved in becoming a teacher.”

Born in Buffalo, New York, Maase arrived in Albuquerque in 1954 at the tender age of eight, and after a few years of schooling on the piano from his mother, he permanently switched his allegiance to the guitar at the age of 13. He did have lessons for two or three months, he recalls. After that, though, he used his ear and native inquisitiveness to figure out how music and the guitar work. He got help along the way from other players, most notably a local jazz guitarist, Clyde Hankins—“a guitar fanatic,” Maase says—who shared a wealth of knowledge on great players like Barney Kessel and Johnny Smith.

The sure hands of Steve Maase. Photo courtesy of photographer Don James and Albuquerque The Magazine.

The sure hands of Steve Maase. Photo courtesy of photographer Don James and Albuquerque The Magazine.

While attending Sandia High School, Maase was playing in rock bands. In 1965, at the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, his group the King Pins recorded one of his instrumental compositions, and it got picked up by MGM. Though the Beatles helped send instrumental rock into a steep decline, the single did moderately well in Japan, says Maase.

He continued to play in New Mexico in bands of his own and as a sideman, and he toured through Nevada and the Northwest in a show band for a year, as well. Maase initially began teaching to supplement his gig income, but he found teaching much to his liking and, with a family to support, much more dependable. In 1979, he began teaching full-time.

“Being able to share the intellectual basis of this stuff is really a very rewarding thing,” he says. “I really am invested in teaching. I love doing it.” He adds that teaching is somewhat self-serving because “in a lot of ways, my students have been my teachers.”

Students bring in songs that they want to learn, and that has opened the door to a lot of music that Maase might not have sought out on his own. “I’m always intrigued by guitar players who are doing things outside of my realm of experience,” he says. “There’s always new ground to cover.” The songs, in turn, open an avenue for Maase to deliver broader technical and theoretical lessons to students.

Maase considers himself “a blessed person” to be able to make a living doing what he loves—playing and teaching—and he plans to continue doing both. You can catch him performing around town a couple times a month with his blues-based band, the Steve Maase Project, and you can hear him playing classic rock with the Great Blue Whales. Sundays find him at Faith Lutheran Church playing with the contemporary Christian group Emaus.

Steve Maase. Photo courtesy of photographer Don James and Albuquerque The Magazine.

Steve Maase. Photo courtesy of photographer Don James and Albuquerque The Magazine.

© 2016 Mel Minter. All rights reserved.

5 thoughts on “R.I.P. Guitarist and Teacher Steve Maase (Updated)

  1. a. seligman

    Steve was my music teacher when i was in middle and high school. He was always kind and patient, a man i respected greatly. He did give my one of the greatest things in life which is music, i have been a recording an preforming since i met him. My life is that much richer for the things that steve has taught me. will be missed greatly.

  2. Frank Dempsey

    Steve taught me to play in 1970-72. Going from knowing only one blues tune to being able to play most of the Deep Purple tune and Chicago 26or64 note for note, Steve trained my ear, taught me displacement patterns and chord chemistry to the point I could out play my peers. I would follow Steve over the years while I played what I call semi-professionally with over 3000 paying gig hours in 35 years time. I sent my son Chris Dempsey to Steve for lessons when he was 16 so he’s taught 2 generations of the Dempsey family. I’ll miss the guy.

    1. Mel Post author

      Thanks for your testimony, Frank. Steve had a devoted following and was well loved by many. He made an impression on his students with his devotion to their education and to their development as human beings.

  3. lucas lujan

    I took lessons from steve for 28 years. he was not only my teacher and mentor but a true friend. We spent hours talking to each other about music and the guitar. He was always there supporting me and giving me hope when my father was dying. I can only hope I gave to him as much as he gave to me. He will never be forgotten but he will be missed dearly.

  4. mj harrison

    Steve was a yr ahead of me in school, and he showed me how to play “needles and pins” in 65-66 and has been a part of my life and music since then. Steve was not only my musical mentor and a friend, but he was a very big part of my getting clean and sober and turning my life around in the 80’s.
    Steve, your fingerprints are all over my journey. Thanks, mj


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