Steve Tibbetts was born in 1954, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and formed a band in high school modeled after the power trios of the day. His father traveled the state of Wisconsin teaching union law while incorporating guitar, singing, and the Joe Hill songbook into his classes. Acoustic and electric guitars have remained a dynamic in Tibbetts’ music to this day.
Steve went to Macalester College in St. Paul and graduated with a degree in Fine Arts expecting to be a visual arts teacher. During his senior year the music department installed a small 4-track studio in a large closet in the music wing. Steve spent most of his senior year there, recording what would be his first album.
Since then he’s recorded 12 more albums, 9 of them with ECM Records. Two other albums were recorded with Choying Drolma, a Tibetan nun Steve met in Nepal, and one album with the Norwegian Hardangar fiddle master Knut Hamre. Throughout that time Marc Anderson has worked with Steve, acting as a creative mentor, advisor, foil, and traveling companion.
From 1985-1997 Steve worked occasionally as a study-abroad coordinator for the Naropa Institute’s study-abroad programs in Nepal (autumn) and Bali (spring), affording him the chance to explore South Asia.
In 1997 Steve and his wife Joanne had triplets, but he’s still found time to lead occasional trips to Asia, focusing on small-group travel to pilgrimage spots in Tibet, and will be taking a group to Kyirong in the autumn of 2019. In 2019 he received licensure as a nurse and will be working in that capacity part-time in Minnesota and for school programs overseas.
A double CD of Steve’s electric and acoustic work for ECM will be released later this year, maybe.
Photo by Diane Waller