Tributes have paid to an Eastbourne man whose passion for music saw him lead bands across East Sussex.
John Stevens, 77, a former upholsterer and a well-respected band leader, died following a long illness last week (November 2).
He developed a life-long love of music after joining the Salvation Army band in Eastbourne as a young boy.
His wife Linda paid tribute to John. She said, “He used to say he had been taken off the streets by Captain Cranham a member of the Old Town Eastbourne Salvation Army.
“He and the other young boys used to play on the streets until he was invited to learn to play an instrument in the band.
“He stopped playing in the streets and spent his free time in the band instead. He wasn’t a bad lad before but it gave him a sense of purpose.”
John was involved in music his whole life, playing in the Royal Artillery Band during his National Service.
He volunteered for an extra four years in the Army playing with the Royal Artillery Staff Band in Germany and training at Kneller Hall, London, which houses the Royal Military School of Music.
After leaving the Army John returned to work as an upholsterer in Eastbourne Old Town and before long founded his own firm.
Despite his success in business, music remained his first passion, seeing him play with a number of bands in East Sussex – including those in Eastbourne, Seaford and Hastings.
John also had a love of golf, playing off a very low handicap as a member of the Eastbourne Artisans Golf Club.
Later in life, he became the musical director of the Eastbourne Silver Band leading their annual Remembrance Day concert at the Congress Theatre and their Christmas morning performance at the Bandstand for several years.
John also taught young children to play brass instruments while in this role.
His work as a band leader also saw John perform at the Royal Albert Hall as part of a Remembrance service.
John’s involvement with the bands saw him return to perform in Germany when Seaford became twinned with Bönningstedt near Hamburg.
Linda said, “He was a very funny man and a great performer. He always used to ask the audience if any of them were from Yorkshire.
“If he got a response he would tell them ‘then what are you doing here, my wife is from Yorkshire and she is always telling me how good it is’.
“He always got a big laugh for that.”
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