Although crime-fighting vigilantes like Batman are reserved for the world of fiction, there are plenty of small-town heroes tucked away in the Green Mountains. Native Vermonter Steve Dwight Longe is one such person. His super power? Producing music to help those in need.
While he has been a Shelburne resident since 1995, Longe spent his youth living on the lower end of Burlington’s North Street. Longe was raised by his mother and three brothers, Richard, Tom, and Larry, and sisters, Sandy and Sue. Having grown up on assistance without the means to attend classes, Longe began to teach himself how to play guitar. Cliff White, a Burlington High School Algebra teacher, was kind enough to show young Steve the basics of finger-picking techniques. Although creating music was the driving force of Longe’s youth, he put the guitar aside for the next 25 years to join corporate America.
The year 1983 marked the beginning of a career with Digital Equipment Corporation. Four years later, Longe joined the Bank of Vermont where he worked until 1989. “I spent 10 years at Green Mountain Power,” Longe says. “Between ‘90 and ‘99, I worked on the NV90 Translation System… the database used in monthly meter readings.” Longe later became a line operator in IBM’s semi-conductor fabrication sector, making wafers until 2008. “I left IBM because it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he says. “I grew up around people with disabilities… I knew I wanted to work with and help these people.” Currently, Longe works for the HowardCenter, with his wife and program manager, Rebecca, supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. According to Longe, there are tough days, but the work is incredibly satisfying: “I guess it’s like having a family.”
Longe’s acoustic reawakening occurred in 2008 when former colleague Bob Clawson spoke of his battle with cancer and asked if he could play a song for Longe. “I was so moved by him and our conversation that a few days later, I decided to pick up the guitar and play again.” Initially, his skills were rusty, but with perseverance, raw talent, and a newfound drive, Longe began recording and selling his music on platforms like iTunes and fandalism.com.
To further cement his conviction to help those less fortunate with his music, Longe experienced an eye-opening moment and created a site where artists help other artists gain exposure for their music. “I saw her [a homeless woman] on I-89.” Longe closes his eyes. “It was 98 degrees. She held up a sign… ‘Please help me. God bless you.’ And that’s when I decided to do something to help.” Two weeks ago, Longe launched vtacousticartistsradio.com, a non-profit site where artists’ music streams to 37 countries world-wide. Ultimately, Longe would like to donate 30 percent of his music sale proceeds to organizations that help homeless people in Vermont. As more people become aware of the site, Longe hopes to broadcast on a higher-quality frequency as well as bring more artists on board. “More artists,” he says, “means less money going out.”
When he is not making music or working with young adults at the HowardCenter, Longe is an avid Alpine skier, enjoys action movies – Predator is a favorite – and reading books like Ken Ilgunas’ “Walden on Wheels.” Next month marks Steve and Rebecca’s 20-year anniversary. When asked for some tips for success, Longe pauses a moment. “Mutual respect, understanding, compassion… And you have to give each other some space.” Although the happy couple chose not to have children of their own, both love working with youth.
Longe’s album “Acoustic Memories” is available on iTunes, Sound Cloud, and fandalism.com. His soulful, heart-warming strumming can also be heard on his website www.vtacousticartistsradio.com. To learn more about Longe, his music and mission, or to find out how you can help make a difference, visit www.stevendwightlongemusic.com.