Steve was born to repair, with a lifelong love of tools and the way things work. As a youngster, he built models, rebuilt bicycles, and helped with repairs and remodeling on the family's century-old home in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Steve began studying the clarinet at age 10. At age 15, he landed an after-school and weekend job at a local music store. When he wasn't sweeping floors and stocking shelves, he was in the store's repair shop, watching the crusty old repairman Ralph Williams fixing woodwinds. Mr. Williams became Steve's mentor and friend, someone who shared Steve's love of tools, but more important, the knowledge, skill and craft of musical instrument repair.
"Watch my hands," Mr. Williams used to tell his young apprentice.
"Stop asking so many questions," he would say, but then he would answer them anyway.
About that same time, at the suggestion of his band director, Steve switched to playing oboe. The band director felt he was ready for a new challenge.
Steve put himself through college doing repair work, and earned a bachelor of arts degree in music education from West Liberty State College. His major instrument was the oboe, which he studied with Nels Leonard Jr., woodwind professor and oboist.
After graduating, Steve accepted a position as woodwind instrument repair technician at an expanding music store in Wichita, Kansas. He soon became shop foreman, specializing in woodwind repair with an emphasis on oboes and flutes.He spent his spare time studying oboe with Judith Dicker at Wichita State University.
Steve left the music store after five years and opened his own shop, Malarskey Woodwinds, also in Wichita. He began building a clientele that included musicians throughout the Midwest and especially members of the Wichita Symphony.
After 13 years in Wichita, Steve and his wife, Dianna, moved to Philadelphia, where he reopened Malarskey Woodwinds to an East Coast market. As an outsider, Steve had difficulty at first breaking into the conservative music scene in the city. But in July 1993, Steve met Nora Post at an International Double Reed Society convention in Minneapolis. That meeting was a turning point.
After Steve showed samples of his work to Ms. Post, she decided to send repair work to him on a trial basis. Steve has been doing steady work for Nora Post Inc. since then, lovingly repairing oboes, English horns and oboes d'amore from around the country.
Steve also currently repairs instruments for several Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic members, professional studio and Broadway pit players in New York, and many local jazz artists, as well as countless civic and student musicians from around the country. He repairs the full family of woodwinds, including bassoons, flutes, clarinets and saxophones, but specializes in oboes and flutes.
Steve has enjoyed working on fine-quality flutes throughout his career. In 1977, Steve met with Louis Deveau, then president of the Haynes Flute Co. After Mr. Deveau saw samples of Steve's work, he began recommending Steve to Haynes customers in the Midwest. In the early 1990s, Malarskey Woodwinds became an authorized sales and service shop for Haynes flutes.
In 1999, Steve Wasser asked Steve to become a sales and service shop for Powell flutes.
Steve's shop is now in beautiful Pipersville, Pennsylvania, from an hour to an hour and a half north of Philadelphia, about an hour and a half to two hours from New York, and about an hour from Princeton, New Jersey.
In June 2008, Steve traveled to Indianapolis for an intensive pad certification workshop with David Straubinger, president/owner of Straubinger Flutes, Inc. Steve was joined at the workshop by Sgt. Shane Pettit, chief of instrument repair at the U.S Military Academy at West Point. Besides working hard to learn the proper technique for installing Straubinger pads, Steve and Shane enjoyed the company and camaraderie, as well as the skills and expertise of Mr. Straubinger. Now Steve proudly displays his Straubinger certification on the wall and has already completed a number of overhaul/installation of Straubinger pads, much to the delighted satisfaction of his customers.
Malarskey Woodwinds, 93 Municipal Road, Pipersville, PA 18947, 610-294-3114 or toll free 888-808-6263