As vice president of communications for the Indianapolis Colts and an active community volunteer, Steve Campbell’s life is busy, but the former Indianapolis deputy mayor always leaves space for music, and in his case, it’s all about the bass. Words by Crystal Hammon. Adapted from Classical Music Indy’s NOTE Magazine.
My Music. My Story. Steve Campbell
What role does music play in your life?
Music is big to me. I started playing trumpet in sixth grade and transitioned to tuba in seventh grade. I wanted to play saxophone, but my older brother was quitting the trumpet and pressured me into playing so our parents wouldn’t get mad at him. I’m glad he did, though, because it launched my entire musical experience. It led me to play tuba in the North Central High School Wind Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra and Marching Band. I also sang bass in my high school’s show choir, the Counterpoints. I went on to play tuba at Wabash College and sang bass in the Wabash Glee Club. After college I taught myself to play the bass guitar and played in a rock band with my two best friends. I’m still in the same band with the same guys, although we don’t play as much as we used to because life got in the way. But, for the past 13 years, we have played at Tonic Ball.
Any favorite memories linked to music?
In 1995 our rock band played a show in Bloomington at the historic Bluebird. We opened for a well-known local band that would later sign with a national label. I remember looking out into the audience and realizing that all eyes were on us. I could see every face. That’s what every band would love to have. Our first time headlining a weekend gig at The Vogue was also a big moment.
How do you feel about classical music?
As a musician, I embrace all types of music. I think music is the most powerful force in the world. I love classical music. That probably comes from my early training in middle school, high school and college when we played and sang 90 percent classical music.
Do you have any favorite composers?
Among classical composers, I love Aaron Copland. We tend to think of classical music as hundreds of years old, but Copland was producing 20th century classical music that is just as moving and powerful. It may sound cliché, but my favorite Copland piece is Fanfare for the Common Man. When I was a student at Wabash, I was part of a brass ensemble that played that piece for the inauguration of our new college president. Of course, like everyone else, I love Bach. There’s also a great Ave Maria arrangement by Franz Biebel that I listen to constantly. Among contemporary musicians, Prince is my gold standard. He was a modern-day composer in every sense of the word.
If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?
I would have to be a bass instrument because the bass line is the foundation of almost any piece of music. Very little can happen without it, and I enjoy that responsibility onstage. I played tuba, sang bass, and now I play bass guitar, so the bass clef is my second home.
Any game day rituals?
Nothing specific. I listen to the radio on the way to the stadium. I switch back and forth between music and sports radio when I’m getting ready for a game.
Is there any overlap between your experience as a musician and what you do for a living now?
Absolutely. All of my experiences performing as a musician have prepared me for this career.
When you’re speaking to media or the fans, it is a performance. People are listening, paying attention and drawing conclusions from the things you say. Before I started working for the Colts, I taught journalism and communications at IUPUI, and teaching each class was a performance in and of itself.