Leith Stevens

Piano Prodity--Jazz Band Conductor--Composer for Radio, Films and Television


  • Mark Brill Equinox Publishing Ltd.




Leith Stevens


An introductory essay to this special issue of JFM devoted to Leith Stevens. Leith Stevens was present at the birth of three of the four major media innovations of the 20th century: radio, film and television. He was instrumental in developing all three and his contributions to them cannot be underestimated. He was associated as composer and / or conductor with several hundred radio programs, and for more than three decades he was constantly involved in the medium. Concurrently, Stevens became an important figure in the scoring of motion pictures, and by the time of his death in 1970, he had been involved in one way or another in the scoring of over 100 films, for M-G-M, Paramount, Columbia, Warner Bros., Allied Artists and a number of independent producers. This essay provides an overview of the composer's life and compositional style.


“First Entirely Jazz Background on Pic Set on Coast by Stevens.” Variety, 1954. (Aug. 11, 1954), 45.

Keller, Hans. “Film Music.” Music Review, 9 (1948), 304-5.

Hamilton, James Clifford. “Leith Stevens: A Critical Analysis of His Works.” DMA diss., University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1976.

Kelly, Fran. “Leith Stevens: Unsung Hero.” Metronome, 71 (Sept. 1955), 20ff.

Lucraft, Howard. “First Jazz Score.” Music U.S.A., 76 (June 1959), 7.

McCarty, Clifford. “Leith Stevens.” Film and TV Music, 16, no. 2 (Winter 1956), 21.

Steiner, Fred. “An Examination of Leith Stevens’ Use of Jazz in ‘The Wild One.’” Filmmusic Notebook, 2, no. 2 (1976), 26-35; and 2, no. 3 (1976), 26-34.

Stevens, Leith. “The Promotion of Film Music in the Concert Hall.” Opera and Concert (Aug. 1947).

———. “Radio vs. Movie Underscoring.” Opera and Concert (Jan. 1948).

———. “The Wild One.” Film Music, 13, no. 3 (Jan.-Feb. 1954), 3-7.

———. “Storm Over Hollywood.” Down Beat, 26 (Oct. 15, 1959), 16-17ff.

———. “The Door to Atonality.” FM & Fine Arts Magazine, (Oct. 1963).



How to Cite

Brill, M. (2009). Leith Stevens: Piano Prodity--Jazz Band Conductor--Composer for Radio, Films and Television. Journal of Film Music, 1(4), 301–328. https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.v1i4.301