Steph Davis is a marimbist, composer, Africana studies scholar, and cultural activist. Their music engages traditions, epistemologies, and aesthetics from the African diaspora as means for uncovering truthful historiographies, finding creative self-actualization, and reaching for collective liberation.
Hailed by The Washington Post as a "captivating" performer who brings "bright humanity and expressive depth" to contemporary music, Steph is a marimba soloist and chamber musician, currently performing in venues across the United States — including Merkin Hall (NYC) and The Broward Center for the Performing Arts (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), among others. Integrating romantic, 20th century, and contemporary classical music primarily by Black composers, traditional and contemporary West African gyil music, and original arrangements of African American spirituals, their performances subvert traditions of colonial domination over the marimba’s representation in the Global North. Through their arrangements, commissions, and compositions, Steph has contributed over 20 works by Black composers to the marimba's solo and chamber repertoire. They have premiered works by Avik Chari, Christa Duggan, Damien Geter, Alissa Voth, Pamela Z, and Bilin Zheng. A versatile and passionate collaborator, they have performed chamber music with noted artists, including Grammy-nominated flutist Nathalie Joachim, PaviElle French, Mazz Swift, Michi Wiancko, and Yasmin Williams, among others. Steph proudly endorses Marimba One instruments and mallets as a Marimba One Premier Artist. Their current projects include recording their debut solo marimba album and a writing a book of marimba arrangements and adaptations of music from the African diaspora.
As a composer, Steph draws inspiration from African/African American aesthetics, Africana womanist discourse, Black historical events, and bodies of water. Their music has been performed internationally in Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. They have received commissions from New Works Project, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Spectrum Ensemble, Prism Percussion, Modern Marimba, Britton-René Collins, Michael Ptacin, and Cameron Denby.
A researcher and scholar of African American music and culture, Steph is a teaching artist with Castle of our Skins, a Black arts institution. As part of this work, they have co-authored K-12 music curricula to accompany music by Anthony Davis and Anthony R. Green, in addition to leading educational performances, residencies, lectures, and workshops around various topics in Black music history. They have presented performances and masterclasses on marimba and vibraphone at the University of Central Florida, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the Center of Mallet Percussion Research at Kutztown University. Steph maintains a small private marimba studio.
Steph has been awarded residencies at Avaloch Farm Music Institute and Boston Center for the Arts, and artist fellowships with the Antenna Cloud Farm Experimental Institute and Music for Food. They were semifinalist in the Southern California Marimba International Artist Competition and a finalist in the Boston Conservatory Concerto Competition.
Steph received their Master of Music in marimba performance from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where they studied with Nancy Zeltsman. They also hold a Bachelor of Music in percussion performance from the conservatory. Other areas of study include music composition, African and African American music/history, Africana philosophy, and Western classical music theory. They serve on the boards of directors at Castle of our Skins and Modern Marimba.
Steph resides on unceded land of the Neponset band of the Massachusett tribe, colonially known as Dorchester, Boston, MA.