Drummer/composer Steve Grover was born February 26, 1956 in Lewiston, Maine. He studied with the excellent local jazz drummer and teacher Dick Demers, and after studying at Berklee and the University of Maine, Steve landed a gig with guitar legend Lenny Breau. Steve worked with him on and off for the next few years, learning the subtleties of small group interplay with a master musician. In 1979, Grover attended a program at The Creative Music Studio, the music school run by Karl Berger, which had such visiting artists as Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill, Lee Konitz, Bob Moses, and other musicians. At CMS, Steve was exposed to the concepts of artists from the world of jazz, new music, and world music.
In 1980 Grover teamed up with clarinetist Brad Terry, saxophonist Charlie Jennison and bassist John Hunter to form a group called The Friends of Jazz, which performed in Maine schools and communities. The group also played host to visiting artists, working with Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Tate, Gray Sargent and others while occasionally reconstituting itself with excellent players like pianist Chris Neville, trombonist Tim Sessions, bassists John Lockwood and Tom Bucci, guitarist Tony Gaboury, and other fine musicians.
In 1985, Steve composed Blackbird Suite, a song cycle setting for the Wallace Stevens poem Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird. Local performances of this piece garnered a grant for Steve to compose Splitting the World In Half, a collaboration with the poet Mark Melnicove that was performed at the Maine Festival in 1986. Several years passed before the 1991 premiere of Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird as a multi-media presentation involving the theater artist Lee Faulkner, which incorporated music, choreography, masks, mime, video, film, and slide projections. The piece was commissioned by the Maine Community Foundation and was staged at the Celebration Barn Theater in South Paris in June 1991. Performances followed at the Maine Festival and as part of a residency in May 1992 in the Farmington school system.
Further explorations of this piece continued into 1994, when Blackbird Suite won the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz/BMI Jazz Composers Competition. For the first time the music involved the vocalist Christine Correa and the pianist Frank Carlberg, who performed the piece at the Kennedy Center in November 1994, as part of the Monk Institute’s competition. When a CD of the music was finally released in 1997, the reviews were excellent. Excerpts of the piece also helped Grover win, along with eleven other contestants, JAZZIZ magazine's Percussion On Fire talent search in 1996, securing a spot on the CD accompanying the February 1997 issue as part of the prize.