Guitarist Esteban is trading his leather gaucho hat for a cowboy hat — at least part of the time.
While he is widely known for his classical guitar performances, living in Prescott for the past two years has rekindled his childhood interest in Western-themed songs, and he plans to play and sing some of them in upcoming shows, including one at the Crystal Hall in the Elks Performing Arts Center on April 8. He’ll be performing with his daughter, talented violinist Teresa Joy.
Western movies and TV shows inspired him as a child, and he plans to include some of those favorites for audiences, from “Rawhide” to “The Gunfight at the OK Corral.” He’s recorded an album of Johnny Cash songs, so performance in the genre is not a stretch for him. He also is working “The River of No Return,” which was performed by Marilyn Monroe in the film of the same name.
The Western romance of Arizona, with the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Tombstone among its iconic images, are all a part of the appeal, he said. But Prescott, home to the world’s oldest rodeo and inspiring Western figures, inspired him to take on this new project.
“I’ve always loved cowboy songs, and now I want to perform them,” he said. “I grew up watching shows like Rawhide, and it’s one of my favorites.”
Known as an instrumental performer, Esteban — aka Stephen Paul — said he plans to sing, too.
“My voice is not trained, but it’s gravelly and low, and I want to make an album of cowboy songs.”
Most people have only heard Esteban’s voice from talking between songs, but he has sung some of the Johnny Cash songs during live performances, and says he’s not afraid of singing. As a young man he performed with a folk singing group in Pittsburgh.
In addition to opening Arizona Earth, a shop in Bashford Court on the Plaza, the performer and businessman said he expects to begin offering master classes to talented youth and adult guitarists this summer, as a way of giving back. He’s resisted doing teaching for many years after doing it for as a full-time job many years ago. In the years when he was unable to perform after a serious car accident, he worked as a guitar teacher at a studio in Santa Monica, teaching as many as 400 lessons a week. His idea now is to teach selectively.
“I’d only do it maybe one or
two days a week to connect with
kids and adults in the Prescott
area who are serious about music,”
Esteban says that he studied under the legendary master guitarist Andres Segovia in Spain, and earlier under Vicente Gomez, a Spanish guitarist who worked in Los Angeles on film soundtracks. Esteban thinks now that some teaching would be an enjoyable sideline — but he’ll keep performing as long as he can.
“At 75, people see me as a little old, but I feel young and I want to perform as long as I can,” he said. “I have a history of shooting from the hip in my life, and I’m learning not to do that.”
But having that experience informs his music and keeps it fresh. Maybe it adds to that cowboy image that he’s taking on.
Esteban became a popular performer in Arizona in 1991 at the Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, where the charismatic musician first riveted audiences with his masterful guitar playing. The same year he released his first album, Songs From My Heart.
For information on the show, call 928-756-2844 or visit prescottelkstheatre.org, or for more information on Esteban, his music and show schedule, visit estebanmusic.com.