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Although the majority of his youth was spent in Birmingham, AL and Jacksonville, FL, Stefan had a nomadic childhood. He was the third of four children, and after his birth in Oxford, England in 1993, he and his family moved back and forth between England and Baltimore, MD twice before his 6th birthday. In 1999 they moved to Jacksonville, FL, where they would spend the next seven years.
Stefan and his siblings (two sisters, one brother) grew up playing several instruments in many genres, but they were all classically trained from the start. Stefan was inspired to learn the guitar after watching the scene in Back to the Future when Marty McFly performs Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” His parents obliged on the condition that he start by learning classical guitar. Despite Stefan’s scant knowledge of music theory and his limited ability to read music—he was 6 at the time—Stefan’s teacher, Ron Johnson, saw promise in his expressive playing and interpretation of classical guitar pieces. Stefan attended the Stetson International Guitar Workshop in DeLand, FL for several years, studying with some of the world’s most accomplished and renowned classical guitarists, including Stephen Robinson, Oscar Ghiglia, Jason Vieaux, Roland Dyens, Arnaud Dumond, and many more. He also studied with Ricardo Iznaola at the Bowdoin International Music Festival during three summers (2005-2007).
In the summer of 2006, Stefan (12) moved to Birmingham, AL with his family. His interest in classical music waned and, eventually, he stopped taking private lessons. However, he continued playing trumpet in the school jazz band and picked up the drums to play in a rock band with his friends. During this period he began listening to a wide range of contemporary music, such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Ray Charles, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, and many more. As he progressed through high school, academics and athletics took over the majority of his attention. He graduated from The Altamont School in Birmingham, AL in 2011.
Stefan attended college at Washington University in St. Louis and graduated with majors in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology (a unique program offered by the school) and Spanish. He rarely played music during his first two years in college. While studying in Madrid during the fall of 2013 he revisited the classical guitar, but also began to explore the music of singer-songwriters such as Norah Jones, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Ben Howard, and more. After returning to school in St. Louis (early 2014) Stefan met a student who was a talented singer-songwriter and who inspired him to start writing songs. They began writing together and the experience awakened Stefan’s passion for songwriting.
After graduating in 2015, Stefan was accepted to a management-training program at a major corporation and began working full-time that summer. Throughout his time at the company his affinity for music and composition grew like wildfire. By the end of his employment (~15 months) he would come home after long work days and get lost in songwriting for 6 or 7 hours, making the following day at work even more difficult to get through. He would even sing melodies into his phone and write lyrics during work hours. In the summer of 2016, Stefan decided to apply to the Los Angeles College of Music. After he was accepted, he put in his two-weeks notice and never looked back.
Young and Free — Dermot Kennedy