Steve Rowland Biography

Producer / Director / Oral Historian / Documentarian / Shakespearean / Educator
Entrepreneur / Musicologist / Sound Engineer / Photographer / Radio Host


photo by Mariel Rowland

photo by Mariel Rowland

Steve Rowland

Steve Rowland has spent a career using music, theater and art as windows to explore issues in American history, society, race relations, human creativity, spirituality, aesthetic beauty, the nature of change and human possibility.  He is one of the most accomplished music documentarians in the United States. Rowland has produced over 50 hours of radio documentary work since 1987. All of his projects are based on extensive oral histories. He produced the 11-hour documentary “Leonard Bernstein: An American Life” which is narrated by Susan Sarandon. It is based on over 100 exclusive interviews Rowland conducted with colleagues of Bernstein and mountains of archival material.

He also created the acclaimed 8-hour “Miles Davis Radio Project”, hosted by Danny Glover, a 5 hour documentary on John Coltrane called “Tell Me How Long Trane’s Been Gone” and individual 2-hour documentaries on a number of American icons, including: “Carlos Santana: Music for Life”, hosted by Edward James Olmos; “Patti LaBelle: Gospel into Soul”, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, “Frank Zappa: American Composer”, hosted by Beverly D’Angelo, and “Hip-Hop 101: On the Road with the Roots”, hosted by Chuck D. His work is in the permanent collections of The Library of Congress and the Museum of Television and Radio.

He has won nearly every award in radio including 2 Peabodys, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Prix Italia, Armstrong, Ohio State, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, New York Festival and most recently a 2012 National Arts Journalism Award. His work has been funded by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and several national foundations.

Rowland has taught at Columbia University, teaches Shakespeare workshops in prisons, has lectured at dozens of schools and universities including Columbia, CUNY, Princeton, Syracuse, and is past President of AIR, The Association of Independent Radio Producers, and ran the AIR Mentoring Program.  He also created and hosted one of the country’s first World Music radio programs 1980-1984.

Rowland has interviewed hundreds of musicians, artists and other thinkers, including Bob Marley,  Cornel West, Fela Ransome Kuti, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Quincy Jones, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Sun Ra, Elvin Jones, Big Youth, Betty Carter, Lester Bowie, Cachao, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, Stephen Sondheim, Oliver Lake, Mstislav Rostropovich, John Lee Hooker, Carlos Santana, Ahmet Ertegun, Leslie Uggams, Marin Alsop, Comden & Green, George Clinton, James DePriest, Kathleen Battle, Flea, Manning Marable and many, many others.

He has worked as a consultant to The Library of Congress, Music Division; the Columbia University Oral History Research Center; The United States Holocaust Museum, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Association of Oral Historians; Studer Editech Corporation; Roland USA, Pro Audio Division; HHB Professional Audio Products, The Philadelphia Folklore Project, the Atwater Kent Museum and many others.

Rowland turned his attention to Shakespeare in 2005 after being shaken by Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons in their film version of The Merchant of Venice.  Returning to film/video, he has conducted over 250 interviews with directors, actors, scholars and prisoners.  He currently lives in Seattle and volunteers as a Shakespeare instructor at Monroe Correctional Facility and is building a new non-profit called “Shakespeare Central”, believing that Shakespeare Changes Lives.

He is also working on two films – “Time Out of Joint: Teaching Shakespeare in Prison” currently being edited — and a profile of Dr. Irena Hausmanowa-Petrusewicz, a Polish Jewish neurologist who survived WWII to help modernize Polish medicine under the Communist regime, currently in development.  Dr. Hausmanowa-Petrusewicz died in July, 2015 at age 98, Rowland and his son Cameron Rowland conducted her oral history in 2014.

Rowland attended Yale briefly and holds an undergraduate degree in ethnomusicology and film production from Temple University and received an MBA from Columbia University in 2001.