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, Hiatts 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 fortwaynemusic.com 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; its 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."
by Kevin Erb
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Click on the headings below for full calendars
Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival — Re-enactors living the life of pioneers, military units conducting drills, traders and trappers, meal preparation demonstrations and more, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, Hier’s Park, Huntington, $1-$3, 356-0138
Fort Wayne Hobby & Collectibles Show — Vintage and new toys, comic books, sport and non sport cards, memorabilia and more on display and for sale, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, Classic Café, Fort Wayne, free, 450-4147
Sunday Night Singles Dance — Open dancing with DJ and cash bar, 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, VFW Post 857, Fort Wayne, $7, 704-3669
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Blues Jam Hosted byLee Lewis and Friends — Open jam at Checkerz Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 6-9 p.m., no cover, 489-0286
Jon Durnell w/Good Night Gracie — Acoustic/variety at Lakeside Park, Fort Wayne, 3-6 p.m., free, 496-8045
Strings and Cords — Classical at Swinney Homestead, Fort Wayne, 4 p.m., $20, 242-7212
Yesterday's Headtrip — Variety at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-5526
Club Paradise — Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee, 9 p.m.
Wrigley Field Bar & Grill — The Voice Karaoke, 10 p.m. , no cover
Freud’s Last Session — all for One productions drama pits atheist psychiatrist Sigmund Freud against Christian writer C.S. Lewis, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, PPG ArtsLab, Auer Center for Arts & Culture, Fort Wayne, $11-20, 422-4226
Le Gala Grand — Fort Wayne Ballet performances of Arpinio’s Birthday Variations, a work by Jane Lanier and a Act II of Swan Lake, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $10-$35, 422-4226
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Afros: A Celebration of Natural Hair — Photographs by Michael July, Tuesday-Sunday thru Oct. 16, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Art of Joanne Schultz — Works by Joanne Schultz, Cara Wade and Matt Mabis, Friday-Sunday thru Oct. 9, Garrett Museum of Art, Garrett, 704-5400
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, 2017, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Diane Groenert — Fort Wayne-based artist exhibits her paintings, daily thru Sept. 30 (reception 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29), Henry’s Restaurant, Fort Wayne, 426-0531
Indiana Bicentennial Exhibit — Artwork by 200 artists in the theme “Indiana: People, Place & Things”, Tuesday-Sunday thru Oct. 12, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
IPFW Department of Fine Art Graduate Works — Mixed media pieces from recent IPFW graduates, Friday-Sunday thru Oct. 18, Garrett Museum of Art, Garrett, 704-5400
Paroxysm: A New Body of Work by Crystal Wagner — Large scale multi-textured sculptures, Tuesday-Sunday thru Oct. 23, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Picasso, Braque and Leger: 20th Century Modern Masters — Paintings and Museum of Art, Tuesday-Sunday thru Oct. 27 (opening reception, 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, includes lecture by exhibit curator Reilly Rhodes), $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Selections from the Haan Collection of Indiana Art — Works on loan from the Haan Mansion Museum in Lafayette, Indiana, Tuesday-Sunday thru Oct. 23, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
The Spirit of Innovation: American Abstraction, 1960 to 1975 — Abstract works from the museum’s permanent collection, Tuesday-Sunday thru Oct. 16, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Theoplis Smith III — Works on display, daily thru Oct. 21, The Gallery at PranaYoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Tom Martin: Everything and Nothing — Realist paintings resembling life and reality and focused on the effect money has on people, Tuesday-Sunday thru Oct. 16, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
University of Saint Francis Photo Club — Photographs from USF students, Tuesday-Sunday thru Oct. 12, Betty Fishman Gallery, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Artlink Educational Programs — Art classes offered by Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, dates and times vary, Artlink, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-7195
Fort Wayne Dance Collective Workshops — Workshops and classes for movement, dance, yoga and more offered by Fort Wayne Dance Collective, dates and times vary, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-6574
IPFW Community Arts Academy— Art, dance, music and theater classes for grades pre-K through 12 offered by IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts, fees vary, 481-6977, www.ipfw.edu/caa
Sweetwater Academy of Music — Private lessons for a variety of instruments available from professional instructors, ongoing weekly lessons, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, call for pricing, 432-8176, academy.sweetwater.com