Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Kevin Hambrick

Kevin Erb

Whatzup Features Writer

Published December 9, 2010

Heads Up! This article is 13 years old.

High schoolers who conjure up dreams of musical stardom are hardly a unique occurrence, nor has it been for years. Whether it be aspirations of the being the next boy band overnight craze with thousands of pre-pubescent girls shrieking their hearts out at you, or being the lead guitarist for the next Pearl Jam and enjoying critical and commercial success, millions of teenagers in this world every day are captivated by the dream of becoming a musician to an almost extreme extent.

In some regards, Kevin Hiatt was no different during his formative teen years. Hiatt, an accomplished and learned musician whose mastery of just about everything guitar has earned him a reputation as one of the whatzup area’’s most intelligent, talented and versatile musicians, was similarly drawn to a dream of becoming a musician at a fairly early age.

That’’s about where the similarities stop, however. Instead of being consumed with visions of busting out choreographed dance routines in front of swooning teens or noodling out guitar solos in plaid shirts in front of throngs of headbangers, Hiatt’’s earliest musical inspirations were drawn from an entirely different and unique source.

“I was bitten by the classical guitar bug early in high school”,” Hiatt explains. “”I really didn’’t have success in finding a strong teacher for something like that, so I taught myself to play. That opened a lot of things up for me. I realized I wanted to write music pretty early on, too.”

From that early yearning to learn classical guitar, coupled with the desire to learn the craft of writing and composing his own music, Hiatt has continuously expanded as a musician. Hiatt is one of the musicians who is always pushing themselves, trying new things out and looking at music as a constant state of learning and educating.

“I try and be careful to not do things I can’’t do as a musician, whether it’’s in terms of songwriting or performing,”” Hiatt says. “”But I always seem to be trying new things out and pushing myself in different directions as well.”

For someone who got his start as a musician by teaching himself to play the classical guitar, Hiatt is one of the most formally trained mainstream musicians you’’ll come across in the area. He has earned three degrees in music composition, including a doctorate from Miami (Ohio) University he earned in the late ‘80s.

During and immediately after his formal musical education, Hiatt worked extensively in classical music as a performer and composer. He has written over 90 separate pieces of chamber music and performed extensively in classical settings.

He soon felt limited, however, and the other musical side of him that had found influences in artists like Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges and Preston Reed began to weigh more heavily on his vision of the future. He soon found himself writing more pop/folk style music for six-, seven- and 12-string guitars (all three of which he is proficient at playing) and pretty much inventing an entirely new musical persona and audience for himself.

Since that time, Hiatt’s stylings, coupled with his classical training and extensive experience in composition, have matured to the point that actually trying to categorize his unique sound becomes a tad difficult to do.

““My stuff tends to be a little more different than straight-forward folk music,”” he explains. “”But I’’m not alone; there’’s a whole subculture of people who do what I do musically speaking and people who seek it out as an audience.””

The whatzup-area musical website describes Hiatt’’s musical stylings as “American fingerstyle guitar somewhere between Fahey/Kottke and Hedges/Preston Reed guitar stylings.

“Extended instrumentals, two-hand tapping, percussive attacks, wall-of-sound approach to acoustic guitar,” it continues. “Lyrics on vocal tunes range from neurotic confessional themes to satirically humorous. Tasty covers for bar gigs.”

“What I go for in my music is something, some sort of experience that will really draw the listener in,”” Hiatt says. “”I am in a constant state of refining the artistic product I put out there for the audience.””

After bouncing around large portions of the continental U.S., working as a performer and a teacher in places like Baltimore, Hiatt returned to Fort Wayne a few years back and got right down to business. His debut album, Another Look at the Sunrise, recorded at Ozone Studios in Fort Wayne, was released about a year ago. The album of all original material from Hiatt featured a healthy balance of both vocal and instrumental pieces, and use of six-, seven- and 12-string guitars.

He is also consistently trying to make himself more of a, as he puts it, “regional act,” taking his act farther out to environs outside northeast Indiana. Gigs in places like Indianapolis and Muncie are increasing in frequency on his schedule, and a recent show he did in Columbus, Ohio was particularly encouraging for him.

“People sat down, were very civil, they listened intensively and clapped,”” he says. ““And most importantly, I didn’’t have any request for Jimmy Buffett tunes the entire time.””

“A second album is already under way as well,” Hiatt says, with a projected completion date sometime in late summer. He says he has a projected total length for the album of about 50 to 60 minutes of more original material, with about 25 minutes of stuff already completed. Tentatively titled Chasing Horses, Hiatt says the album will hopefully convey an even stronger “range of instrumentation” than Another Look at the Sunrise did. When you counter one song he performed for the album with Joe Kalisman, a Fort Wayne Philharmonic cello player, with “”Goodbye to Ranger Doug,”” a song he says is dedicated to Pee Wee Herman, a “range of instrumentation” may be a bit of an understatement.

“I am going for more variety with this album; it’s that simple,”” he says.

But even as he works to expand his presence in areas outside of northeast Indiana, Hiatt is still working to expand his presence locally as well.

“There’’s some talented musicians here, and I think Fort Wayne can be fertile ground for a strong musical scene,” he contends. “From my experiences alone, I have seen a growing, certain intelligentsia-type audience looking for this type of music, for these types of performers.”

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