Playing percussion since 12, it never crossed Olivia Kieffer
's mind that she would pursue it as a career until she attended the National High School Music Institute at Northwestern in the summer of 1997. After earning a BM in Percussion Performance from Cincinnati Conservatory, Olivia worked for a year and began studying at Georgia State University in Atlanta, while teaching in middle school, freelancing, playing in an all-women percussion group Chix with Stix and being an adjunct professor at Reinhardt University. In an interview with Composium, Olivia talks about her education and composing career.
Kieffer got into composition because of a back injury, being 30 years old at the time. Not having the chance to move or walk for six months, Olivia's then-husband bought her a MIDI keyboard. "I started flirting with that," she says, mentioning that most of the works were dark electronic tunes on GarageBand that no one saw… until her husband encouraged her to arrange some of the music for live artists. She then formed a band, Clibber Jones Ensemble, to perform those tunes. It didn't take long for the composer to get her first commission, which was for a bass clarinet and tenor saxophone duet. To this day, this piece is still Olivia's best-selling score.