August 5, 2009

Racine Kilties' Emil Pavlik inducted into Drum Corps International's Hall of Fame

Emil Pavlik gives a speech after being inducted into Drum Corps International's Hall of Fame.

The Racine Kilties' Emil Pavlik was inducted into Drum Corps International's Hall of Fame this week in Indianapolis. Here's a report from George Fennell, a former Kiltie who helped put together Pavlik's nomination:
Last night Drum Corps international (DCI) took the HOF inductees and a guest out to dinner at 7 pm at Harry & Izzy's Restaurant in Indianapolis. So I wasn't at that. This was followed by DCI's "World Championship Kickoff Party" in the 500 Ballroom at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis from 9:30 PM - 2:00 AM. At this wonderful party each of the five 2009 HOF inductees were introduced by the MC Dr. Dave Kampschroer, chairman of the HOF Committee, and each were given three minutes a piece at the microphone. Emil's daughter, Barb Riegelman, introduced Emil to the audience after Dr. Kampschroer did. Emil then gave a nice talk and was very, very well received by the audience. After his talk he was given a rousing standing ovation by the audience which included all of the high powered DCI officials, many DCI judges and the administrative and instructional staff of most of the top DCI drum and bugle corps. It was very nice, indeed!

George Fennell (right) with Pavlik and Pavlik's daughter, Barb Riegelman.

Racine Kilties' Emil Pavlik inducted
into Drum Corps International Hall of Fame

Emil Pavlik didn't know anything about drum corps when the Racine Kilties sought him out as their musical director in 1952. Fifty-seven years later he's being recognized as one of drum corps' all-time greats.

The 89-year-old Pavlik (right), of Racine, will be inducted into Drum Corps International's Hall of Fame tonight in Indianapolis for his 18 years of work as musical director of the Racine Kilties. Pavlik is the first Kiltie inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame, and one of just 94 people inducted into the hall since it was founded in 1985.

"He was a great teacher and mentor," said George Fennell, who played in the Kilties for two years under Pavlik's direction. "He's a wonderful asset."

Pavlik's music career started at home in Chicago when he was a young teenager. He picked up the coronet, and then the violin, and learned to play music. From those early days, he never stopped.

Pavlik served in the Army during World War II playing in the 290th Infantry band. After the war he became a professional jazz musician known nationally for his arranging skills. The Kilties came calling in 1952 when they needed a new director. Pavlik said it was "natural" how he joined the drum corps.

"When the director announced he was leaving, they (Kilties members) said, 'We'll get Pavlik,'" Emil recalled.

It didn't matter that Pavlik knew nothing about drum corps. "Music is music," he said.

And actually, it was Pavlik's jazz arrangements that helped bring the Kilties national acclaim, Fennell said. Pavlik used a "radical jazz chording" that gave the Kilties a distinctive sound that carries through today, he said.

"Kilties were often a winner, always a contender," said George Fennell, who played in the Kilties under Pavlik for two years. "Emil and his staff always put us in position to win.

The Racine Kilties stopped on Main Street during the Fourth of July parade to play a special song for Emil Pavlik, who is being inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame. Photo by George Fennell

Pavlik is entering DCI's Hall of Fame in the "Legacy Category" for his lifetime of work, Fennell said. While directing the Kilties, he produced three national champion horn lines in 1953, 1968 and 1969, with a narrow miss in 1964 by 0.1 point.

Pavlik will be inducted into the Hall of Fame tonight and awarded a plaque on Friday. He's one of two inductees this year out of 10 applicants, Fennell said.

Pavlik's nomination was started by a letter Kiltie alum Dave Hertsgaard wrote to DCI. Fennell and others followed up with supporting letters and additional information. Edward Porcaro, Gary King, Robert Cormack, Dennis Hinen, Jack Eschmann and Robert Teska all wrote in support of Pavlik. (Fennell said the Pavlik's application was actually too long and too in depth. "We had to shorten it," he said.

Pavlik looked back fondly on his time with the Kilties.

"It was a damn good bunch of kids," he said. "They blew their guts out."

Tonight's ceremony is a crowning achievement for Pavlik, who will turn 90 later this month. During Racine's Fourth of July parade, the Kilties stopped in front of Pavlik's daughter's house and played a special tribute to hime.

Looking back, Pavlik said he was grateful for picking up an instrument as a young man and realizing early on that music was his life.

"It was one of the best damn things that ever happened to me," he said.


  1. How cool is this?! Congrats!

  2. Congrats on a great honor! I love the Kilties.

  3. JJ McAuliffe8/05/2009 1:16 PM

    This could not happen to a better person. I am proud of the many years Emil played at the pub. Not only is he a great player, he's a great friend. Still have the picture of a young Emil with Louie Armstrong on the wall at McAuliffe's. Thanks for years of great service to the musical community. You truly are a legend.

  4. Congratulations to the entire Pavlik family! Being on the porch with you all on the 4th for the Kilties salute was one of the coolest things ever at a parade.

  5. The drum corps version of Super Bowl and Olympics all in one and I'm happy to be a part of it and see my father honored for all his hard work. DCI and the City of Indianapolis has rolled out the red carpet for everyone involved. Thank you so much!

    Stefan Pavlik

  6. Aeri Cooper- Hetland8/07/2009 10:40 AM

    I am so sorry that I was not there to see my Gramps receive this wonderful honor, and witness history for Racine, WI. Congratulations Gramps!

    Aeri, Scott, Bailey and Peyton

  7. Way to go "pop's". you were always a hall of famer to me. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy and I'm sure that Bev is up there smiling from ear to ear. God bless you all.

    Big Jim Lindquist.

  8. Barbara Pavlik Riegelman8/07/2009 4:03 PM

    This is the most incredible thing that I have ever witnessed! Red carpet, indeed! 2 huge screens showing a slide show of dad's life as a musician and with his family while he was being introduced. A lovely dinner at Harry and Izzy's in the VIP room. Champagne and LED lighted wine glasses! Pictures with the Budweiser girls. Dad's speech was "off the cuff" and touching. People said that they could have listened to him all night. Today we toured the town and found a jazz group playing for the Rondald McDonald House. More pictures...I am so proud and so fortunate to have been a part of this. Tonight he receives his plaque at Lucas Oil Stadiun, the home of the Colts. He'll be the toast of the town for awhile, and rightfully so.

    Love ya, dad.


  9. To receive this level of peer recognition is truly one of the greatest honors one could indeed receive. I am very happy for Emil and prayed for his health so he might be honored so as he deserves this recognition and much more. Although I have known Barb since I was a kid and had many friends/fellow musicians in the Kilties, I didn't meet Emil until I started subing for Joe Pulice with the Bunic Big Band. What a great player and arranger, and he is such a gas, we quickly became friends. I wish he was still playing with the band, we all miss him (and his cornet!) It is indeed a pleasure and honor to know him!

  10. Oops...PS the above comment, yours sincerely, Shane Mooney

  11. We Winna Be Dauntit...