Music is in his blood

Alex Stephens was born to make music, and his living room can attest to that.

There is a small bust of Beethoven, his grandfather's saxophone and his guitar in one corner of his living room. His first clarinet and his grandfather's violin hang on the wall above. Several of his father's guitars line the wall along with a mandolin and ukulele.

"I just love music," said the Huntington Beach resident. "It's in my blood."

The signature piece in the room is a black baby grand piano where Stephens, 23, picked out notes for an arrangement of "In the Glow of the Moon" that won him a national honor.

Stephens, a soon-to-be graduate of Cal State Long Beach's Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, was recognized by the national student publication DownBeat Magazine for the top jazz arrangement in the undergraduate category.

"It was pretty shocking," he said. "I wasn't expecting to get first."

The music composition major has been involved with the school's vocal jazz ensemble, Pacific Standard Time, which was also recognized by the publication, for the last four years. Leaving the group is going to be hard — college is where he discovered his passion for music.

Although Stephens was born into a musical family, it wasn't until he went to Cal State Long Beach that he discovered it is what he wants to do with his life. Ironically, he wouldn't even have gone to college if it wasn't for music.

Stephens studied the clarinet in elementary and middle schools, but dropped it when he got to Edison High School for a lighter instrument.

"It was fun, but I was just kind of sick of lugging my clarinet around, so I thought I'll carry my voice around," he said.

Stephens took up choir and was offered a full-ride scholarship to study music at Cal State Long Beach. The opportunity changed his plans.

"I wasn't really raised college-bound, but everything changed when I was offered the scholarship," he said.

Stephens is finishing his final semester at Long Beach in the fall and is concerned about finding a job in music. Music is a hard field to break into, and he is considering trying to find a nonmusical, stable job, he said.

Although Stephens is unsure about his plans, Christine Guter, the director of Cal State Long Beach's vocal jazz ensemble, sees a bright musical future for him.

Stephens, she said, is professional with a beautiful, velvet voice and a great devotion and passion to music.

"I also know he's destined for greatness," she said.

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