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The sound of music: Local composer performs songs for Brown Bag Luncheon

By Staff | Feb 21, 2019

First Friday Coffeehouse Founder Steve Warner explains his musical path, during Shepherdstown Area Independent Living's Brown Bag Luncheon at Trinity Episcopal Church on Feb. 15. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — “I’m very glad to be here — I know some of you folks, and some of you know me,” said local composer Steve Warner with a smile. Warner is well known in the Eastern Panhandle for his original music, but, according to him, his road to his current musical career was a long one.

During Shepherdstown Area Independent Living’s Feb. 15 Brown Bag Luncheon at Trinity Episcopal Church, Warner discussed his musical journey.

“Sometimes we have presenters who tell about civic subjects, like politics or history, but this will be a light-hearted presentation,” said emcee Cathy Lewis about the Brown Bag Luncheon. “Steve Warner is well known in the Shepherdstown community. He is the founder of the First Friday Coffeehouse, just outside of Shepherdstown. Steve plays many instruments, but today he’s going to stick to playing the guitar.”

As he prepared to perform each piece in his set of half-a-dozen original songs, Warner explained each piece, discussing the importance of each song in his life.

“I have a passion for song writing, and am going to give you an idea of how I got there, with my song writing,” Warner said, mentioning he is teaching a song writing class as part of Shepherd University’s Lifelong Learning program. “I started as a kid. I used to go around the house singing and learning songs from the radio. It probably started with Elvis.

“My grandmother, after a while, started hiring me to sing for visitors,” Warner said, mentioning he realized music could be a potential career path after this, because his grandmother paid him a quarter for every time he sang for her.

In high school, Warner bought a Martin guitar, a purchase which encouraged him to learn how to play it to accompany his singing.

“I figured I’d better learn it, since it was such a big investment,” Warner said, mentioning he then formed a duo in college, called Buffalo Tongue. “It’s funny, because some of those songs we played then in my college days and post-college days, I still play, like ‘The Eagle’ and ‘Mr. Bojangles.'”

Those songs, according to Warner, developed his musical preference for Americana music, such as the music of Johnny Cash and James Taylor. Warner said he doesn’t see much Americana music created today, which is one reason he tends to perform his own original music or popular songs from the past.

Warner then performed a song from one of his two available CDs, “Renaissance Man,” as an example of this music.

“I’ve probably written about 400 to 500 songs, which is a lot. Only about 40 of them are good, maybe 50. The more you write, the better you get,” Warner said, mentioning he has recorded several CDs, but does not plan to record any more.

According to Warner, his career turned away from music for 35 years, when he set up a marketing and advertising business in Martinsburg. But when the recession hit in 2008, he had to close his business’ doors, and has since focused on perfecting his craft.

“I can look back at songs I’ve written years ago, but I’ve always thought my best song is the one I haven’t written yet,” Warner said.

To learn more about the First Friday Coffeehouse, visit www.facebook.com/First-Friday-Coffeehouse-403869326350259/.