Steve is currently a 21 year old telecommunications major here at Penn State University in State College. He enjoys live music, film, media and human culture. He plans to make his entry into the world of media/communications management once he graduates in 2013. Steve aka Big Steve previously came from Penn State Berks (hence one of his names, Chester Berks) where he offers us his experience trying to make it as a local artist there.
To all you aspiring musicians and artists at a branch campus, listen up.
Interview with Big Steve aka Chester Berks (Steve Kopanski)
SITR: How did you come across your passion for music? Why hip-hop?
I’ve been playing music since I was a little kid. I started drumming on practically anything that I could get my hands on which eventually led to formal lessons throughout grade school where I became section leader of my high schools drum line and eventually the instructor of said drum line after graduation. I’ve been writing and creating my own music since I was about 11-12 years old and have been writing ever since. Between the ages of 14-15, I began to go to local shows around Berks and Chester County, PA. At that age, I was not making hip-hop as much as alternative and heavier genres and playing in hardcore and metal bands. However, my love for hip-hop was always with me even at a young age. I didn’t start making hip-hop until I was about 18 years old when I took my writing style and applied it to a new medium.
SITR: A lot of Penn State students transfer from Berks Campus. Coming from the Berks/Chester area, how has it treated you?
The music scene in my local area actually didn’t serve me all that well, as it’s a difficult process to begin to book a solo hip-hop artist in a city with practically no real hip-hop foundation. Although I’ve struggled to reach much beyond an audience of friends and friends-of-friends, I’ve found the best ways to stay relevant in today’s music scene, is to have a specific edge and to have a style unto yourself. Social media is also something that I try to take full advantage of and through sites like soundcloud.com and hotnewhiphop.com where I’ve come into contact with numerous level-headed musicians like myself who are anxious to apply a soulful vibe to today’s music society. I do utilize sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, and whatever else I can do to spread the word about my music, which is difficult because of how flooded this specific genre is. I do my best to stay humble and focused on making the music that naturally comes out of me and I feel like I have found my place within the genre of hip-hop.
SITR: How would advise other students from Penn State Berks get their name out there?
Coming from the Penn State Berks, it was difficult to get my name around and I was generally unsuccessful in doing so while I was commuting to and from campus. However, word of mouth has continued to serve me buy only to a limited extent. To any beginning artist in that area, I would suggest attending open mics, local shows, or simply searching the web for what’s going on around you. The most powerful tool is people and it is difficult to utilize people in an area that’s so spread out, such as Berks County.
SITR: What artists have been your biggest influence?
My biggest influences are artists like Mos Def, Common, Kanye West, De la Soul, The Roots, Blu, and jazz greats like John Coltrane and Miles Davis. I’m also motivated and inspired by anybody making honest, soulful music.