John Stephens – Sarode, Sitar, and Surbahar

John Stephens is a sarode, surbahar and sitar player based in Durham, North Carolina. He was very fortunate to receive over a decade of in-person training from sarode maestro Ustad Aashish Khan, eldest son of Ustad Ali Akbar of the Senia Maihar Gharana. Today, John is a performing musician, recording artist, and music educator. In addition to teaching privately, he was a regular teacher at the California State Summer School for the Arts, and a regular substitute teacher and guest lecturer for world music faculty at CalArts.

John is also an author of musical texts. His article, The Microtones of Bharata’s Natyashastra, was published in Volume 6 of Analytical Approaches to World Music. He also had the honor of adapting a number of Ustad Aashish Khan’s compositions for western notation, which were published in Sangeet: Legacy of the Maihar Gharana, along with his introductory and explanatory text.

John earned his bachelor’s degree in music from Berklee College of Music (2006), majoring in Jazz Composition. After living in India for a year, he went on to earn his MFA in North Indian music at CalArts (2011). John first learned sitar from Pandit Amar Nath Mishra in Banaras. He also received training and guidance from Daniel Birch, Josh Feinberg, and Hamid Hossein. His training under Ustad Aashish Khan began in 2009 and continues to this day.