DANVILLE -- Danville, Los Angeles and now New York -- that's been the road to fame for Monte Vista High School alum Jeffrey Stein, class of 2007, since he began studying at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music.
Within the first week of classes, he heard about a trio of incredible guitarists and musicians, New West Guitar Group.
With New West, Stein's traveled to Montreal, Paris and the acoustic guitar group has given concerts in venues across the country and New York as well as teaching guest clinics at universities throughout the United States.
Red Legged Frog Productions, a local Bay area company, is featuring the New West Guitar Group at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts at 8:15 p.m. Friday for a performance of the trio's popular covers and original music. Adult tickets are $30, seniors' and children's tickets are $25 each.
Founded by fellow USC grads John Storie, from Bend, Ore.; and Perry Smith, Tiburon, Stein had the opportunity to join New West in 2010. Aware of ensemble since his first days at USC, Stein admired and looked up to John and Perry as players and composers.
"It was an honor to join a project that I really believe in," Stein said. "We're all constantly challenging each other to be better guitarists. ... Playing in New West is constantly rewarding and just plain fun. I'm consistently propelled forward as a musician and performing music that amalgamates so many of my interests and influences."
Combining the acoustic and electric guitar, the trio plays a combination of jazz, Americana and chamber music, with original compositions and covers of popular tunes. Everything from The Police and Joni Mitchell to Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck, they are firmly rooted in classic jazz.
Stein's been playing guitar since he was 9, largely inspired by his father's recreational playing and singing of songs by The Beatles and James Taylor. Taught by locals Mike Williams, at Danville Music, and Christine Offerman, Stein's middle school band teacher, he credits them for exposing him to great jazz musicians.
Stein's reminded of Offerman often. He's kept a note that she wrote to him in eighth grade. After burning a copy of Joe Pass's album "Virtuoso," Offerman wrote, "Jeff, being as good as Pass someday is totally within your reach! Keep up the hard work, because you have the potential to be a star!"
Still teaching music at Charlotte Wood, Offerman said, "I am honored that Jeff sees me as a pivotal influence and happy our jazz class was able to provide him the opportunity to do something he loves."
Stein's dream is simple: "Living in New York and working every day to further my musical goals. There is always more to learn about music. ... It's highly competitive," Stein said. "There are thousands of people like me trying to make their way in New York."
Returning to the Bay Area and performing for his friends and family will be a great homecoming for Stein. "I'm really excited to share New West's music," he said. "Lesher Center for the Arts is also a beautiful venue. It's an honor to return home and perform in such an incredible space."