De Soto native Keith Javors’ musical career started with a rendition of the “M*A*S*H” theme song performed on a defunct family piano and grew into one of international renown.
As a child, as young as 3, Javors showed signs of being a musical prodigy, picking up the sounds of television theme songs and recreating their sounds by ear. At 7, he began formal lessons, and he’s never looked back.
“I’m not sure how I gravitated toward music, but I know it was love at first sound,” he said, adding he knew early in life it would be his career. “I felt it very early on, maybe even as early as grade school, and it continued to solidify itself. In some ways, I really didn’t feel like I had a choice. It was a calling.”
Javors, now a traveling recording and performing artist and CEO of Philadelphia-based Inarhyme Records, credits his Southern Illinois support network and the spirit and nature of the region with preparing him for success.
A graduate of De Soto Grade School and Carbondale Community High School, he never felt out of place or under the gun.
“The relaxation and pace of the area was a very non-pressured type of place for me to learn,” he said. “It was a very warm and welcoming environment.”
While he learned from and even played alongside several SIU professors while in high school, Javors decided – with encouragement from his mentors – to seek out the best collegiate music program he could find. He eventually landed in Texas, leaving Southern Illinois at age 17.
College began Javors’ real journey into making music a career. Through the years, there have been ups and downs, good times and hard ones, but through it all, he put an emphasis on keeping a focus and a rational mind.
“I knew there was a chance I could do really, really well, but, being a realist, I knew there were factors in the business that could stop that from happening,” he said.
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The odds ended in Javors’ favor. Through the 25 years since he graduated from CCHS, the artist has recorded several critically acclaimed albums and performed alongside a literal who’s who of jazz, including Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, Tom Harrell, Chris Potter and more.
In addition to a busy U.S. tour schedule, Javors also travels and performs internationally at venues such as the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and Russia’s International House of Music. His travels and experiences, he said, are a blessing and the byproduct of the support he received in Southern Illinois.
While Javors has seen all reaches of the map, he’s most excited for his next journey. He’s coming home. Javors will return to Southern Illinois for a visit next week, from April 23-25. On his agenda are clinics and performances at his alma maters, De Soto Grade School and CCHS, and a special appearance with the New Arts Jazztet.
“I thought I’d love to get back into my old schools,” he said. “I didn’t ask for any fees; I wasn’t interested in that. I just wanted to get in and try to inspire some people.”
The performance with the New Arts Jazztet, Southern Illinois’ premier jazz ensemble comprised mostly of SIU School of Music faculty, will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 25, at SIU’s Altgeld Hall Room 112. The concert is part of Jazz Appreciation Month and will feature original compositions by Javors and Jazztet members.
In addition to the concerts and school seminars, Javors will also be taking photographs and shooting material for his new album, a pop and R&B album with the working title “It Takes A Village.” The album draws inspiration from his small-town Southern Illinois roots.
Javors is also looking into establishing a trust, which would receive a portion of sales and licensing monies from the new album. Money in the trust would be used to support music programs in his hometown.
“The older I get, the more I really miss Southern Illinois and the warmth of its people,” he said.