Brush with Art: Remembering the musical mastery of Steve White

Brush with Art: Remembering the musical mastery of Steve White
One-man band Steve White created spellbinding music that delighted audiences locally and around the world. Courtesy photo

For 20 years patrons of the Seaside Bazaar in Encinitas enjoyed local legend Steve White’s performances of his distinctive music. On March 16 — which would have marked White’s 64th birthday — his life will be celebrated with the first annual Steve White Music and Art Festival.

The upbeat event will include a full day of live music and art, culminating at the La Paloma Theatre with a 7 p.m. screening of Steve White Painting the World with Music, a new documentary film by filmmakers Clint Burkett and Tom Zizzi. The story depicts White’s adventurous life from his youth in Southeast Asia to his years performing his music throughout Europe, Asia and across the U.S. as portrayed through narrations, interviews on the road and a woven tapestry of White’s original songs, journals, lyrics and paintings.

Filmmaker Burkett recalls, “I was compelled to do this documentary because I have loved and been around music my whole life. But when I heard Steve White play, this was music I had never before heard or experienced. My thoughts of seeing this guy play four instruments simultaneously — a footboard for his rhythm, slide guitar and harmonica combined with lyrics that painted pictures in my mind, along with his gravel-edged yet melodic voice — I knew he had a story.”

Burkett adds, “I want people to see this film and hope it makes them ponder their own lives and what it’s about to live every moment. Steve did that. And his music and art live on.”

According to renowned singer-songwriter Jack Tempchin, “The thing about Steve White is his music! He had his own way of playing the guitar. He chose different string sizes for his guitar than anyone else ever did. He was a one-man band who designed his own foot stomp amplifier. But that would not mean anything except for the fantastic music all that work resulted in. Spellbinding mood music. The real thing. It doesn’t happen that often.”

President of 101 Artists’ Colony Danny Salzhandler remarks, “Steve played his songs at the Artists’ Colony to everyone’s’ delight. He was our One Man House Band.”

Steve Denyes of the Hullabaloo Band remembers, “I met Steve in the late 80’s doing open mike nights at the Miracles Cafe. I was a young folk-geek and Steve was the real deal. He was a great songwriter and the way he played guitar just blew me away. I was lucky to have him as a friend and a mentor.”

White’s life partner Alda Leal reminisces, “It was a joy and a privilege to live with someone so creative, kind, and fascinating. He was my dictionary and history book. We traveled the world together and we both enjoyed our experiences as one. Steve was my own personal box of chocolates.”

White lost his battle with esophageal cancer in 2011 but his memory lives on through the Steve White Foundation, which has as its mission “continuing the work of the musician and visual artist who inspired thousands locally and abroad with his creativity, his spirit of giving, his keen observations about everyday life, and his sense of humor.”

The first annual Steve White Music and Art Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Encinitas Seaside Bazaar, followed by the 7 p.m. screening of Steve White Painting the World with Music at the La Paloma Theatre, both March 16.

For more information on Steve White, the music and art festival, and to print a ticket for free admission to the film screening, visit




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