Audio excerpts taken from part 1 of Frank Dorritie’s piece titled “Legends Of The One Valve Bugle” presented by www.drumcorpsplanet.com and www.fleetwoodsounds.com
"Niewood's flute scored again on Bellavia, the gorgeous, Grammy- winning Italian-tinged ballad that Mangione wrote for his mother. But the real star of this tune - as well as half a dozen others - was powerhouse lead trumpet man Jeff Kievit, an unsung giant whose strong, clear, perfectly pitched forays into the upper register spiked Mangione's sweet subtle songs with heart stopping energy and soul."
Dan Neal, Palm Beach Post
The following interview is reprinted from the April 2000, 28th Anniversary Edition of Drum Corps World
by Ruth Webster
Dan Neal, Palm Beach PostThe world of drum corps is rich in tradition. Championship performances, spectacular soloists, corps and shows both past and present become the stuff of our legend and lore. One of corps' most legendary performers is Jeff Kievit of the Hawthorne Muchachos.
Kievit's musical career began at the age of seven when he joined the newly formed Muchachos drum and bugle corps in his native New Jersey. For the next fourteen seasons he climbed through the ranks of the corps, from second soprano, to soloist, instructor and arranger, setting a junior drum corps longevity record in the process.
Now in his forties, Kievit has established himself as one of the "first call" studio trumpeters in New York City, as well as a Grammy-nominated arranger and producer. His recently debuted CD For Once features new music by Chuck Mangione, a vocal performance by Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell, and a tribute to the Muchachos.
During the course of his career Kievit has performed, recorded, or toured with such artists as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, the Bee Gees, Burt Bacharach, Chuck Mangione, Julio Iglesias, John Cougar Mellencamp, Patti Labelle, Sammy Davis Jr., Anthony Newley, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and Dionne Warwick. And that's the short list!
His Broadway credits include: 42nd Street, Steel Pier, Grand Hotel, Gypsy, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Shirley MacLaine's one-woman show, and most recently, Ragtime.
His trumpet can currently be heard on spots for ABC's Monday Night Football, ESPN's NFL and college football broadcasts, the Ryder Cup, Fox Sports, NPR, Volkswagen, McDonald's, E-Trade, The Bryant Gumbel Show, and on the soundtracks of Tim Robbin's "The Cradle Will Rock" and Oliver Stone's "On Any Given Sunday". His most recent recording credits include performances with George Michael, Lyle Lovett, Natalie Cole, the Spice Girls, Elton John, Ricky Martin, and Michael Jackson.
Kievit is a sterling example of the professional and personal success that can be launched from an involvement in drum corps. To find out more, Drum Corps World spoke in-depth to this most interesting former corpsman.
DCW: There are doubtless many kids in drum corps today who would like to follow in your footsteps. Can you offer any general advice to a corps member who would like to pursue a career in music performance?
Kievit: I'm still amused when I think back to the time when trumpet teachers and band directors would urge me to get out of drum corps. "It's going to ruin you," they'd say. What I find most amusing is how wrong seemingly knowledgeable people can be. If there's one thing to point to as the key to success in my life, it most assuredly would be my years spent as a Hawthorne Muchacho.
My experience with the Muchachos was particularly unique. I began with the group in their inaugural year at the age of seven. From that time on I was exposed to some of the best of the best from the activity. When I would hear the soloists from the then perennial champion Hawthorne Caballeros, it was quite clear that that's what I wanted to do. Over the years as music was being taught, I learned virtually all the parts, gaining a tremendous knowledge of who played what and how the arrangements were constructed.
One of the best arrangers of the time, in the early 70's, was Larry Kirschner. Larry had written an original composition for our opening number one year. As we rehearsed it, he stopped everything, looked at me and said, "This is where you'll play a solo." I responded, "Great! What would that be?" Larry laughed and said, "That's for you to figure out." To this day, I wonder if Larry knew he was changing the course of my life.
From that moment on my role with the drum corps changed. Our director John MacAuliffe took a chance on me and asked me to do some arranging for the corps. He believed in me more than I believed in myself. As I learned and grew as an arranger, head instructor, and soloist, the whole corps supported me with their full confidence. We had something special.
You asked about the intangibles that lead to success in the music business...Dare to dream. Have a vision. Be resilient. Find ways to out train the competition. Give a lot; expect a lot. Lead by example. Be prepared, and most of all be persistent. Something magical can happen when you put an emotion behind a dream, thought, or prayer. Thoughts are living things. All things are possible. These have become my mottos.
The music business is not unlike any other. It's extremely political, filled with traps, and rich with reward for those who seize opportunity and make the most of it. There's lots of room at the top; it's the middle that's crowded.
DCW: Do you still actively participate in drum corps? As a fan? An an instructor, arranger, or clinician?
Kievit: Occasionally I'll get a chance to take in a show or two and I always enjoy seeing my friends from every corner of the drum corps community.
There have been a couple of occasions when my schedule has allowed me to get involved on the instructor side of things and, I must say, I always find it to be a richly rewarding experience. There's something about helping others reach their goals and giving back to an activity that did so much for me that I find very fulfilling.
This past season the Cabellero alumni corps played my arrangement of "Carnival" from the '75 Muchachos repertoire and asked if I would perform my solo with them at Giant Stadium for the Cadets' show. I gathered up the old uniform (which still fits) and suited up. The evening was made special by the fact that the Muchachos were having a reunion at the stadium for the show and my appearance with the Cabs Alumni was kept a surprise. It was a fun and fitting tribute to that "old gang o'mine".
DCW: What is your favorite recent corps show? What's being put on the field that you enjoy? In that same vein, what would you like to see on the field in the future?
Kievit: I've always enjoyed the Santa Clara Vanguard and when I saw them this past season at the Cadets' show it was no exception. The sound of the entire ensemble, from the lowest bass drum to the top soprano or pit instrument, made sense. The sounds were rich, warm, even, and balanced from bottom to top, truly impressive. So much of what many corps do today is spectacular.
I especially appreciate corps that stay true to the idiom of the music they're playing. There are many different ways to approach playing a brass instrument and no one way is the only correct way. Some approaches are more idiomatically correct than others. The trick is to be well versed in all styles and be able to adapt to whatever the situation or effect calls for.
The visual aspect of what's being put on the field is truly amazing and, in most cases, nothing has been sacrificed in the presentation of the music.
I would like to hear a wider variety of musical styles, and see a wider array of uniforms, costumes, and set design. I'm amazed by the display of technical proficiency but, at the same time, left with a feeling of lack - missing programs that evoke more of an emotional response. There must be a way to satisfy both worlds.
DCW: What is a particularly poignant memory that you have of your corps years? Kievit: In 1974 we were actually in the hunt for the championship. Because of a clerical error on our part we ended up competing in the prelims on a different day than all of the other DCI member corps. We had a different panel of judges with an entirely different frame of reference. When the prelims were over, we found ourselves near the bottom of the heap of finalists, clearly out of any contention for the championship. Everyone knew that the results of the finals pretty much matched the prelims. There was rarely any movement, and even if there was, from eighth to first? I don't think so.
What do you say to the faithful? When it was my turn to give the speech before the finals' performance, I felt like the grim reaper himself and said, "There's no way we're going to win this thing. It's impossible. So please, just let it go. Have some fun and let it fly."
Bedlam broke out after that performance and we were swarmed by fans grabbing pieces of our uniforms or anything they could get their hands on as souvenirs. Judges came to find me and apologize for what had happened. I assured them that we were OK, for we had finally given a performance so filled with excitement, spontaneity, passion, and energy that where we placed in the competition was of no consequence. We learned valuable lessons that day. And that particular performance, over the top as it was, is still regarded as one of the most dramatic in drum corps history.
We approached the 1975 season with a great deal of confidence. All the "maybe next years" were rolled up into one last chance for me, and we believed. When we took the field at the CYO's in Boston the week before the DCI championships, it was clear to everyone that something was different. It was magical. We were on a mission and not to be denied. We had grown up and were coming to claim what was ours. That was the second performance in my life when we were so good that nothing else mattered. Other corps had been on tour for weeks working and improving everyday. Our tour had just begun and we were already in position to achieve our goal. It was our turn to improve and perfect.
Little did we know that the story had reached its conclusion. The special performance we had been preparing for would never be.
DCW: You have worked with many famous artists. What professional experience has really excited you, that has been a highlight of your post-corps days?
Kievit: Performing with the Bee Gees during their Saturday Night Fever success stands out as one of the first giant thrills, as well as performing for Frank Sinatra while I was still with the corps. All the years with Chuck Mangione have been particularly rewarding since as a college student I was such a huge fan of his. I've been honored to work with him and call him my friend. The Hollywood Bowl concert and the 1980 Winter Olympics are a couple of the many highlights with Chuck.
The Broadway musical Kiss of the Spider Woman, which I dubbed "The Muchachos on Broadway", also stands out since the music was of the Spanish, aggravated assault variety; and, once again, I got to write my own solos.
I had always dreamed of producing records for pop female singers so when the opportunity came to produce, arrange, and play for Vanessa Williams' rendition of the National Anthem for Super Bowl XXX, I had to pinch myself. Talk about dreams coming true. Here I was standing on the field at the Super Bowl. I had Vanessa's daughter on my shoulders so that she could see her mom over the ballplayers. We were standing next to Neil O'Donnell, at whose wedding ceremony I had played six months earlier. I was listening to my arrangement, my trumpeting, and Vanessa Williams. I recalled my childhood dreams and was overwhelmed by the moment.
Vanessa and I had become friends at Kiss of the Spider Woman where she performed the leading role. After the success of the anthem she asked me to produce her Christmas CD. It was the first time since my days with the corps that I was totally consumed by a worthwhile goal. The CD received critical acclaim, was nominated for a Grammy, went on to spawn an ABC-TV special, and gave me the opportunity to record For Once.
DCW: What did drum corps teach you that has been of value in your career?
Kievit: More than once I've been called a very lucky guy, and this is undoubtedly true. It's also true that the harder I work the luckier I get.
I think it's obvious that drum corps was the largest influence in my young adult life. The basic tenets of any good drum corps will be the same, stressing discipline, team work, sacrifice, dedication, and persistence.
Because of the extraordinary nature of my position with the Muchachos it became incumbent upon me to learn how to arrange, teach, produce, handle time management issues, learn people skills and programming. Thank goodness for on the job training, or trial by fire, depending on how you look at it. Seriously, everything I needed to be a success in the music business, I learned from my experience with the Hawthorne Muchachos.
Unfortunately, in today's drum corps environment there's not a chance of getting the opportunities that were presented to me. It was rare even at that time.
I guess the most valuable things I learned from the drum corps days were how to pick myself up and dust myself off, and how to think.
DCW: Do you see any drum corps influence in the professional music world? Are there others out there who have corps in their roots or blood?
Kievit: One of the reasons I enjoy playing on many of the TV sports themes is that the heroic aggravated assault style with lots of brass takes me back and reminds me of the "go for it" days in drum corps.
Several of my professional colleagues have come from the ranks of drum corps and a still larger number are fans. That number is steadily growing.
Tony McAnany, the producer of the soundtrack for "Any Given Sunday", the new Oliver Stone movie, has become a drum corps fanatic. His vision was to actually get a corps to play on some of the tracks. That didn't work out so he went the conventional route and hired some studio horn players. Little did he know that several of us were drum corps vets. So, he actually got pretty close to his wish.
DCW: Tell the readers a little about your CD, and particularly the Muchachos tribute. What brought it about? What music will they hear in the tribute?
Kievit: This CD is something I've wanted to do for longer than I care to remember. For those unfamiliar with drum corps or my involvement with it, I tell them this project is a tribute to a group of people, from a time in my life a long time ago, without whom I wonder whether I'd be in this business at all.
I've been lucky enough to go on and have some success in the music business. This CD is dedicated to the rest of my team who never got their just reward or the recognition they so deserved. At the same time I'm filled with pride at the astounding success of so many of the former Muchachos.
On the title track "For Once" you'll hear the haunting prayerful sadness of all that was lost, as well as the hopeful spirited soul of someone who believed that there was such a thing as being so good that they had to give it to you.
On "Pictures Remembered / Aranjuez" you'll hear something that we recorded in a New York City studio with some of the finest brass players in town playing exactly what the Muchachos played in 1975. I so wanted my old gang to have a recording of this.
You really cross the river as a performer when the music means something to you. It's my hope that people will hear it, feel it, and remember. Viva Muchachos!