2015 True West Award: Keith Ewer

Photo courtesy the Arvada Center.


​Today’s recipient: Keith Ewer,
Arvada Center House Percussionist

Today’s presenter: DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore

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Keith Ewer has been the House Percussionist for every musical staged at the Arvada Center since 1987.

That’s worth a beat.

That means Ewer has played more than 100 Arvada Center productions over almost 30 years – an astonishing record of excellence and longevity that’s likely been matched by … well, no one in a comparable position. And that doesn’t even count the 27 Arvada Center children’s theatre productions Ewer has helmed as Musical Director.

Keith Ewer quote“I swear the Arvada Center would be a pile of rubble without Keith,” said Arvada Center Resident Musical Director and orchestra conductor David Nehls. “He is truly the most supportive person I have ever met in my career.”

Ewer was named Assistant to the Musical Director in 1995. The job entails coordinating all logistical details with orchestra members. Ewer sets up the rehearsal schedule, logistics, contracts and much more – including creating individual charts for each musician. “Keith just keeps things humming along in the background,” said Public Relations Manager Melanie Mayner.

This past year, Ewer was the percussionist for the Irish drama A Man of No Importance, Saturday Night Fever, Charlotte’s Web and the current Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, which plays through Dec. 23.

A Man of No Importance posed a particular challenge for Ewer and Nehls. Artistic Director Rod Lansberry recruited the Irish band Colcannon to perform on-stage for the musical. It was the first time the Arvada Center utilized a guest musical group in that way. Nehls still would need to conduct them, and Ewer still would be needed for percussion – but the pair couldn’t be positioned onstage with the Irish band. So the two went unseen by the audience behind the stage, where Nehls conducted Colcannon through a video monitor. Somehow the players all kept time despite the physical separation, and Ewer took the challenge on with typical good humor. It’s that kind of flexibility that impresses Nehls about Ewer.

“With Keith, it’s really about his extraordinary commitment to everything he does, and how he swoops in to save the day on so many issues,” Nehls said. “I swear, he is superhuman at times.”

Ewer, who graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, just celebrated his 25th anniversary running the Front Range Youth Symphony, and he has been on the faculty of the Colorado Honor Band Association since 1982. In what is left of his spare time, he works as a freelance musician, teacher, composer and arranger throughout the metro area.

A scene from the Arvada Center’s ‘A Man of No Importance.’ Keith Ewer played percussion backstage while the Irish band Colcannon was featured onstage. Photo by P. Switzer.

The True West Awards began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. This year, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from around the state over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore’s daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

Day 1: Rachel D. Graham
Day 2: BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular
Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre’s 50th anniversary season
Day 4: Laurence Curry
Day 5: Bernie Cardell
Day 6: Susan Lyles
Day 7: John Jurcheck​
Day 8: Christopher L. Sheley
Day 9: DCPA Education’s ‘Shakespeare in the Parking Lot
Day 10: Man and Monster: Todd Debreceni and TJ Hogle
Day 11: Shauna Johnson
Day 12: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
Day 13: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye
Day 14: Keith Ewer
Day 15: Allison Watrous
Day 16: Jonathan Farwell
Day 17: Bob, Wendy and Missy Moore
Day 18: Emma Messenger
Day 19: Shannon McKinney
Day 20: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
Day 21: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
Day 22: Scott Beyette
Day 23: Augustus Truhn
Day 24: Jimmy Bruenger
Day 25: The Masters of Props: Rob Costigan, Peki Pineda and Becky Toma
Day 26: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
Day 27: Andre Rodriguez
Day 28: Rebecca Remaly
Day 29: Mark Collins
Day 30: Phamaly Theatre Company’s Cabaret
Bonus: Donald R. Seawell

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