Jazz musician shares Baker experience


Kevin Mahogany came to Baker to be a chemical engineer, but when he failed his chemistry class, he returned to his roots to study something he had been doing professionally since he was 12 — music.

“Baker allowed me to use my talents,” Mahogany said. “At a lot of schools, you couldn’t get private lessons without being a major, and Baker gave me an opportunity to try out a number of things.”

At Baker, Mahogany formed a jazz choir and a few other music groups. He was a drum major, part of the jazz ensemble and also sang opera, all of which helped him along the path that eventually led him to be called “the standout jazz vocalist of his generation” by Newsweek<em>Newsweek</em>.. Newsweek.

Mahogany has toured all over the world, from Kansas City to Siberia. On Nov. 21, Mahogany will be performing back where it all began — Baker University.

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“I’ve proudly traveled around the world, and I try to spread the word of Kansas City and Baker,” Mahogany said. “Graduating from Baker is something that I will always be proud of, and ‘the Baker experience’ as they say, where we get to do so many things.”

After graduation, Mahogany went to Kansas City, where he formed two groups, “The Apollos” and “Mahogany.” In 1993, Mahogany released his debut album, Double Rainbow. The “encouraging” experience that Mahogany had while creating this album is something that he hopes to pass on to aspiring musicians.

Sophomore Collin Studer, a classical pianist in the Baker University jazz band, hopes to learn from Mahogany’s visit to BU.

“One thing that I would like to know is what it is like to be a professional musician,” Studer said. “More than anything I hope my aspirations with music take me to a place that allows me to create an experience which gives the audience a sense of togetherness and a moment to relax and forget about worry and trouble for awhile.”

Mahogany’s “swing-based blues” style is a reflection of the Kansas City style of jazz, which differs from the common perception of jazz music. Mahogany says that when you come from Kansas City like he does, “you better be able to sway some jazz.”

Music, something he had been doing half his life before coming to Baker, is a large part of Mahogany’s life. He professes his love for jazz performance to his listeners.

“Honestly, it’s not about me, it’s about my audience,” Mahogany said. “The perception of the song, of the music, and the emotional content as well as just the words alone — just making them try to feel what the words are.”

Many students and faculty are excited for Mahogany’s visit in November.

“He is at the top of the game and to get him to come here is a real gift and a real pleasure,” Director of Jazz Ensemble J.D. Parr said. “It just gives us some national recognition and credibility as a strong musical department that trains students in an excellent way.”

The visit will include a concert at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 21 in Rice Auditorium in which Mahogany will perform with the jazz band. He also hopes to host a few clinics in which he will teach about things that “can’t really be learned without doing it.”

He also enjoys coming back to the campus to see the changes and talk to faculty and students.

“I hope (students) realize what they can do, not only on campus, but later on in life,” Mahogany said. “The education you get from Baker is a great place to start from. The hands-on experience consistently and trying new things gives so many ways to find talents and expand.”