Robert Baca Interview pt. 1




Bob Baca is a professor of trumpet and Jazz at UW-Eau Claire. In this Oral History he discusses his early music career leading up to and including his time at UWEC. He also discusses his work with the Jazz program and the Eau Claire Jazz Festival.


Interviewers Lizzy Schmidt and Madelyn Rysavy


April 6, 2017


MR: Okay so, We are here today is the 6th of April 2017, this is Madelyn Rysavy and
Lizzy Schmidt and we are doing the sounds of Eau Claire Oral History Project. We are
currently in the Phillips Auditorium in the Haas Fine Arts Center on the Campus in Eau
Claire and we are currently sitting with Professor Bob Baca so we’re very happy to be
with him today.

LS: Okay so, We are going to start with some current and general information. So,
what’s your currents occupation?

RB: Here at the University?

LS: Yes or what would you identify as your current occupation?

RB: Well, there are several. At the University, it is professor of music and also director
of Jazz Studies. So I teach applied trumpet and then am also director of the Jazz
studies program.

LS: Okay, what is your role as a musician?

RB: What is my role as a musician? At the university what do I do?

LS: I guess as a musician like professionally and personally.

RB: Sure, I am a trumpet player and my life’s occupation is in three different areas. One
is teaching at the university here, running the first and the second Jazz ensemble and
also teaching all of the applied trumpet students, which are all undergraduate students.
To keep things fresh and to help show my students whats happening in the industry, I
also work as a freelance musician in the Twin Cities. That involves studio recording, it
involves playing with the IMA cross over musician, it's called a crossover musician
because I am equally comfortable with playing classical music and playing Jazz or
playing any type of music that involves a trumpet. So, primarily I go over the Twin Cities
now to play for broadway shows. And we have a contractor that, contractors work for
various theaters and my contractors supplies the music for the Orpheum Theater, the
State Theater and the Pantages Theater on Hennepin Avenue. So, I am an employee of
those areas, whatever acts that involve a trumpet that comes to those areas, that's what
I play for and I’ve done that for 28 years now. The third occupation is I am a soloist with
high school and with different college ensembles and, community ensembles.

LS: Okay, How long have you been in Eau Claire?

RB: Since Fall of 1986.

LS: Alright

MR: Alright so now we're going to talk little bit or ask you some questions about your
youth and your early music career. So, one of our questions is what we’re your music
icons as a youth? Who did you look up to?


RB: Who did I look to? Well… in my… we had an excellent, I didn’t think so at the time,
but we had an excellent middle school program in the late 1960s. Now Music across the
country had come from a very militaristic background. But there were hotbeds in the
United States that the concert band area, which was really formed around 1909 in
public schools flourished and in the late 1960s chicago area of the midwest was a
hotbed for concert band. It was largely because of some terrific directors
Hensley[spelling?] was one Hunsenburger[spelling?] at Juliette central and another
band director named William Revelli and William Revelli ended up, I believe he was at
Valparaiso(?) High School at then he ended up at University of Michigan and his style
of band directing produced some tremendous bands so graduates of his were going to
different areas and making these fabulous band programs but his style was very
militaristic and so in the late 1960s, and when I was in middle school, they wouldn’t say:
“Bob you need to play that note right,” they would say: “Mr. Baca…” And so they would
call you Mr. Baca or Mr. So and So and there was a tremendous amount of discipline
going on and when we were in middle school, I actually realized later that we made
three different records for music we had played. Then in high school that wasn’t as
much of a discipline situation but our high school director took us to go here to the
chicago Symphony orchestra. We did not have an orchestra in our high school, and
lockport, Illinois where I’m from was a very blue collar town. Everybody worked at the
Texaco Refinery and so to go see a symphony orchestra was not within our culture.
Well the first orchestra concert he ever took us to was… most of us fell asleep during it
and I fell asleep actually during the program notes before it because it was all strings
and two female vocalists singing in Japanese and it was excerpts from an opera called
Madame Butterfly. Which is a Japanese Opera and so that was our first exposure to
orchestra music. So that's what we thought orchestra music was, and so when he all
wanted us to go again, we rebelled against that because we all thought that was dumb.
And our parents, who had us in the band program, didn’t want to put out the money for
something that we weren't going to be able to go into or do something with later on. But
this orchestra director, this band director kept pushing this. The second concert that we
went to started out with a trumpet solo. In the very beginning of it was just trumpet and it was a full orchestra and it was just the trumpet that started out and wow was that a
sound. We were probably close to three quarters of a block away because we had the
cheap seat in the back. But his sound was so big like a 5,000 dollar stereo set, it
sounded like he was just right there. He played about thirty seconds of this solo and
then he when for this higher note and the orchestra, the entire 100 piece orchestra
came in. Wow, what a sound that was. He was a Trumpet player and his name was
Adolf Herseth and I just couldn’t believe that sound. And I went and introduced myself to him afterwards and wanted to get closer to him and I started to go to more orchestra
concerts. So my first love as a musician was this orchestra player. Now what I didn’t
know at the time that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in that world, was rated as one
of the top two or three orchestras in the world. And that Adolf Herseth was eventually
was non-disputed by anybody as the greatest symphonic trumpet player that ever lived.
So I was really very fortunate in that way to have met him and to be influenced by him.
So, earlier in my career, I really wanted to do anything that had to do with orchestra and
pursue that through high school. Now, my brother, my older brother Tom, who was four
years older than me, he was a very good Jazz tenor player. So we had Jazz around our
house but I didn’t really play any of that because I was really focused on Adolf Herseth.
So that was at least through the first part of college.

MR: So he was probably part of the reason why you chose the trumpet, then, I assume?

RB: That’s right.

MR: Yeah

RB: Yeah I wanted to sound like him.

MR: And how would you say that your early years, early on, influenced your passion for
music? How does that still transcend today?

RB: How does that… how do I think about that, you mean, today?

MR: Yeah, how do you think that, looking back on it, what influenced, what really
impacted you.


RB: Well, we talk to our students many times because music is something that takes a
tremendous amount of commitment. What we were talking about before [a reference to
before the interview] that you not only have to do your regular subjects but you have to
put all this practice time, you know, on top. And the students, the music students here
are very serious and get the results from that. So we tell them that anytime they get
really frustrated to go back to that first moment or the concert when they decided “yeah! I want to go into music!” And so I go back to that experience all the time of meeting him and spending time with him. I remember one time when I was at Indiana University and after a while, I think during graduate school, they had… It’s the largest music school in the world, they have 1,700 music majors there and they have five symphony orchestras
there. So I went there so I’d have a chance to play because it wasn’t as selective and
after a while I got in the top spot in the top orchestra and we were going to be playing
Mahler’s third symphony. Well, the one with the big trumpet solo in the beginning that’s
Mahler’s fifth symphony. We were going to play Mahler’s third symphony and I brought
the entire brass section from that orchestra to Chicago because Chicago symphony was
going to be playing it a couple of months earlier, you know, than we did and man, what
a thrill that was to see Adolf and to say “Hey! Well, there’s little Bobby Baca!” You know,
and to introduce these other players to this great musician. And the entire brass section
talked to us about how to make that symphony a lot better.

MR: and then, finally, what was your music education like? What was… Starting as a
youth and then building up into college.

RB: Sure, well, do either of you play a musical instrument?

LS: I used to play clarinet in High School.

RB: and so you know what it was like in Band, right? Band is like a big family and
probably like sports but different, I think. So, usually the people that are involved with
band become very close friends with one another because we’re making music
together. There’s nothing greater than putting in a bunch of hard work, right? Then
having a concert that the audience just loves. So there was a great comradery that was
there and then it gets us to where we want to excel, so those are called honors groups.
So, just like anyone else, we want to get into honors groups, so we can play with more7
people who are as passionate, in our case, about music. So that can lead into
something that for a living and that's what happened with us going to this music school.

LS: Okay, so now we’re going to move on more into your professional music career like
before you started teaching. What was it like to tour with huge icons such as Frank
Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Mel Torme, and Tony Bennett?


RB: Sure, Well I think I had mentioned that I really wanted to, I really wanted to play in a
symphony orchestra. And, like today, the industry was shrinking and it continues to be
that way today. And so, I really felt that I was on my way to do something like that but, in
the course of like a year, there might be eight trumpet positions open in symphony
orchestras, across the world. So there are literally thousands of players trying to get into
these symphony orchestras. But you feel if this is really your passion, you’re really going
to go after it. So I did that, so I auditioned for several different symphony orchestras.
There’s a step by step process you get into. And after a while you actually get to where
you’re seeing the same people at the auditions. And the auditions are also very
expensive because Cincinnati plays a piece a certain way and chicago plays it a
different way and if you play it the way chicago did, you won’t be able to get the job inc
Cincinnati because they don’t want it to be that way. So you usually have to take
lessons with the principal trumpet of that orchestra so that he can say “we play that
chord long” so you can get that kind of background. And so I did that for a while, and I
basically ran out of money. And I was a graduate student as a master’s degree there
and I was a graduate assistant of one of the great pedagogues in the world, his name8
was, probably one of the best two or three pedagogues for trumpet in the world and his
name was William Adam. Now William Adam… there are trumpet players, trumpet
teachers(Pedagogues) that teach content and say when you play a piccolo trumpet, do
this. When you get into a Jazz Band situation, do this. Then there are other
pedagogues, that go way inside of the human spirit and they develop all of those
categories to where content, like learning things, are not really a big deal. Because
you’ve got such a belief in yourself and you have such a motivation and a passion to
pick up a different instrument or play a different type of music is very doable. He could
get to know you better than you knew yourself. So I studied with him from 1977 to I think
19… well I studied with him until he passed away, he passed away at 96 years old just
a few years ago. I would go down for lessons with him from here but, this guy William
Adam had more professional trumpet players making a living, playing the trumpet, in all
areas: Orchestra, and many in the top of their professions… Have you ever heard of
Chris Bode(?) you’ll have to look him up, on youtube. He is the the most wealthiest Jazz
musician alive right now. And Chris Bode I went to school with and he also studied with
William Adam as well. If you listen to any of his podcasts or tones, or youtube things,
he’ll give most of the credit to what he’s doing to Bill Adam because he was like a father
to us. So I was a graduate assistant with him as a master’s degree student, and
because he could fix people, again, you go into a class… you go into a history class you
get information, right? And that's called content, but this guy can actually take a trumpet
player that couldn’t get anything out or that physically had different problems, and
through, what he calls Gastault(?) psychology, getting so into… getting… Actors have9
that. That’s another story, we may not have time for that, an Actor can learn certain
skills, your sister can learn- then I do want to tell this story for your sister. So Actors
categorize themselves into three areas: A actors, B actors, and C actors. And this is
coming from an A actor coach that I learned this from, C actors are people that are
learning to become actors, B actors are on television and anything you could possibly
imagine but, they’re in it for their career and they’re in it for the money and they’re in it
for the prestige and their motivation is to get their craft better. Then there’s the A actors,
the A actors could care less about money, the A actors do what they do so well that the
only feeling in life is to be able to do this particular thing better and all of their insides go
towards that. A actors are Tom Cruise, Halle Berry is considered an A actor, Chris Rock
is a comedian but he is considered an A actor. There are people in business and other
professions as well. So what does one of these coaches do? Okay, so Halle Berry for
instance, had to do the show Roots and Halle Berry had not had a black experience in


her life because she was wealthy, she had mixed colored parents and she did
not have any sense of racism as she was going up. This was by her particular coach,
she was talking about, how did she get… how did she play this part in roots, it had to be
very convincing. She had found that when she watched some television program and
saw this thing about racism and saw that this person was her same color and for this
particular moment, when she was in her teens, it really affected her. So this coach was
able to take this one incident and through months and months of conversations, to get
her to really be able to feel what it would be like being black, I guess. So that’s kinda
what a great pedagogue does is they really work on the inside. So people from all over10
the world in various professions came to see Mr. Adam, because he was this great
pedagogue they could be part way into their career, Jerry Hey(?), all that Earth Wind
and Fire stuff, he wrote it, he played on it… all the Micheal Jackson stuff you know and
he went through some things. This guy in 1981 was making $900,000 a year playing
this kind of music. And then one day he was playing a recording session went up to this
particular scale and he felt that someone had taken an ice pick to his neck. He had CAT
scans he had everything and he said there’s nothing wrong with you and it was totally
psychological. He got to the point where he would be picking up his instrument and it
got to about here [holds up invisible instrument to chest] he had that same feeling in his
neck and he couldn’t play anymore. So guys like him, he would come to Mr. Adam. And
he would work out these things. So as these players were coming in to see him… he
would tell him certain things and then go say: “Okay, go practice this with the graduate
assistant for maybe four or five hours a day.” and it might be simple exercises, and so
that’s where I got to know a lot of these different players. One of these players was
Doug Clark, he was the lead trumpet player on the Buddy Rich Band. Every time that he
was in the midwest, he would come down to see Mr. Adam and we would get together
and play. Well, I was an all classical musician but every musician was supposed to say:
If ever they had an opening on that Band, “I would give my left arm to have the
opportunity to play with this band.” And to be an all classical musician, you just know
when someone plays all classical as compared to Jazz. But he never asked me to prove
it, if I could play Jazz or not. I knew there was going to be an opening in the Buddy Rich
Band, he said: “There’s going to be an opening, are you sure you can do this?” and I11
said: “Oh yeah, I can definitely do this.” But I couldn’t. He said: “Okay, my reputation
depends on this.” So, I got on the Band and it was for the fourth trumpet part. At about
eight measures in the first song, the Bass Trombone player named George Guessline,
he turned around and he said: “ In all due respect, have you ever played this kind of
music before?” I knew instantly that I didn’t know how to play it. So Doug found out
about it, and had some very nice explicit things to say and then he said: “You cannot get
fired from this band, because if you get fired then no one will trust my opinion anymore.”
So he said: “We are going to learn this music, and I’m going to play it and you’re going
to play it, and then I’m going to play it and you’re going to play it. We’re going to go
through this entire book.” And we did that after almost every gig that we played. And he
would say: “Nah nah nah, you’re taking the end of the phrase and you’re lifting it up
[mimics wrong trumpet sounds] you’re supposed to go [mimics jazzy trumpet sounds,
loud clap] like that.” Then I was like: “But that would be gross!” Then he would say, “If
you want to keep your job you’re going to have to learn how to play gross.” So after
doing that and having the incredible opportunity to hear what that was supposed to
sound like in this great band every single night, after about three months I started to get
it. And you asked about Frank Sinatra and so at that time Buddy Rich’s band was the
back up band for Frank Sinatra in his career. And so we would play a Buddy Rich set,
Buddy Rich if you want to look him up on the internet, probably one of the greatest
drummers of all time. So, we would play a Buddy Rich set for about 45 minutes and
then a comedian named Tom Dreesen would come on and then Frank Sinatra would
come on for about 45 minutes. But we used Frank Sinatra’s rhythm section, and that’s12
where the groove or the beat really comes about is what happens in the rhythm section.
So all of our music, if you’re familiar with Buddy Rich’s band, they’re… he plays… that’s
where I learned that there’s not just something called a beat. [0:26:20] That a beat is
like a football field, and where that’s placed depends of what kind music it is. Country
music, the beat is in a certain place on country music. And with the Buddy Rich Band,
everything was way on top of the beat. So it would be like [pounds rhythmically while
humming and dictating beats] and that's way on top of the beat. Well, Frank Sinatra’s
music… if Buddy Rich’s band was at the 5 yard line on top of the beat, Frank Sinatra’s
music would be on the five yard line on the back of the beat and when we first played
with him, we must have felt like to his rhythm section who play that way, it must have
been like going down an ice hill out of control because we were rushing everything. But
Sinatra’s music is really laid back, I found that out because later on I got to play with the
real players who played with Sinatra for 30-40 years, I did one of Frank Sinatra’s last
tours. That was very interesting, Frank Sinatra’s Junior was conducting, and he said:
“Okay, is everybody ready?” and then he went “One, Two, Three, Four…” and the band
played. [imitates band] and there was like no conductor and we were just like, oh my
gosh. And the part actually went [imitates rhythm] and the ‘gah’ was me and I was
rushing it. But when everybody is playing it that way, playing it the same way, then it’s
easier to know, that’s where the five yard line is on the beat. So, Frank Sinatra, that was
a great thing about that. Buddy Rich didn’t really communicate much with his players,
we rode around a bus all the time. His reputation is great, very large for being a real
jerk. Again, because of the middle school experience I had, I was fine with it. It was just
very military like. Sinatra never went up to the players, Sinatra always had guards
around him. He always had people around him and, when he would communicate with
orchestra… he heard everything by the way. There was one time, an incident that
involved me. We would stand, he would come out, there was such a respect. He would
come out on the stage and he would say: “Hello boys,” and the band would go: “Hello
Mr. Sinatra.” And he would just say… just the command that he had on stage. He would
say: “Is everybody ready?” and then he would start to sing… during the soundcheck and
if there was anything that he heard that was funny he would just stand back here [gets
up and walks to the back of the auditorium] and he would just stop for a second and he
would walk up to the conductor and he would just whisper something in his ear. One
time he whispered something and he conductor went and looked at all the parts and he
said “Holy Cow. Really? Yeah. Mr. Sinatra would prefer if the third trumpet player on
measure 78 would play and F natural instead of an F sharp.” I was like, “Dang.That’s
right!” But he just heard that, incredible. Tony Bennett was an incredible singer probably
one of the most prominent singers still today, where Sinatra was very real… and he
was… what he was describing as a cruter (?) he was the ultimate cruter(?) so he was
never acting. He would never say the same thing concert after concert.
Tony Bennett was extremely rehearsed, so every concert we did with Tony Bennett, he said
exactly the same words, adjective per adjective. As a matter a fact, it was so prominent
that, we knew when all of his actions were going to be. The Trumpet section is in the
back and when he did a particular song he would [raises hands] like that and behind our
stands we were usually doing a lot of the different actions. Or for soundchecks, Tony14
Bennett usually came with a tennis racket he would hear a few notes and just say “fine.”
and one time I heard Tony Bennett, two years after we played with him, on television
with the symphony orchestra and the words were exactly the same from those two
years. So that’s sometimes the way it is with actors. Things are extremely rehearsed,
and they work out the timing and everything like that and it’s actually very effective. Is
that it? Mel Torme?

LS: Yeah

RB: Mel Torme was probably one of the ultimate, great singers that was out there. He
was very much of a disciplinarian too, he was all business. But a lot of these guys, you
have to understand, that they were on the road for 50 weeks, if not 52 weeks a year and
they really knew how to bring across the show aspect but might be totally different
people on the side. One of those people who is coming to the jazz festival this year,
he’s as much of a celebrity as Johnny Carson, as Sinatra, as much of a celebrity as
Sinatra as any actor during his generation. Of course I’m talking about Doc Severinsen.
He’s coming here just is a few weeks, we’ve actually never had someone of that caliber
since I’ve been here at school. You’ll see that just when he walks around, you know,
just everything surrounds what he is. He’s just… He’s done live television, live television
doesn’t happen anymore. It’s where you come out and you're just… you can’t edit it. So
that’s what it’s like with some of those actors, as with many others. But I think those
were the prominent ones.

LS: Yeah, so looking back on your professional music career, and that can include
some of your time here at Eau Claire as well, what would be the one thing that sticks15
out as the highlight? Like looking back and you think: “That’s my favorite thing that

RB: Particular concert? … That’s a very difficult question because after a while, you
really just want to keep learning. You want to just keep doing things that you can’t do
and I have to say, at this time, everything is just like a small child again. Everything. We
just played the show Matilda last week, and that just had enormous challenges. We’re
going to play Wicked coming up this next week and, that has enormous challenges to it.
So, orchestra concerts are terrific, solo performance concerts are terrific, I guess I can
think of one thing in particular that was really a highlight.

LS: Okay, what made you want to stop touring and stop doing that kind of professional
thing and settle down and start teaching?

RB: Getting married. Yeah, I moved here because I was newly married and I worked as
a freelance musician in Indianapolis. To make a living do that, you had to go out on
tours a lot, for 6-7 weeks or 8 weeks in a row and, that would not have been a good way
to start a marriage. Also, when I was a kid in middle school, we used to come up here
and fish. [0:35:40] So, I’ve got great childhood memories here so this was a job
opening. It was funny, I wanted to look into it as classical trumpet, I wanted to get back
into that again. But, the Jazz area has been the one thing that has really taken off as
well. I thought I really wanted to teach trumpet and the jazz part, yeah I can do that.
Many times at a school like this you have to do more than one thing. So we have one
thing that really gels us, and the other thing that we can do. I’m sure your history
professors have that too, they have a specialty that they love and they’ll do other things.

LS: What made you want to pursue Eau Claire verus like the Twin Cities, Madison or
Chicago as a place to settle down and teach?

RB: Well it was a job that was open. That was the primary reason. I think back then…
yeah.. I guess I was a… you’ll have to add up the years, I don’t know if I’m correct on
this or not, figure out my age, I was either 26 or 27 I think when I came here. It was just
something that I was able to choose a life where I could be with my wife. It is an
absolutely gorgeous area and, the fact the cities are right next to us. So, it was about
three years and after the third year, I started to go play there. The twin cities is this
incredible place that was just passed up by New York City as the highest area for arts
entrepreneurship in the nation, per capita. New York actually just passed it, New York
was second. There’s so much classical, wonderful classical… The Minnesota Orchestra
is one of the top five orchestras in the world. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is the
number one chamber orchestra in the world. And that creates all this off shoot because
people want to go there just to be in that atmosphere. At one time, I’m not sure if it is
anymore, It was the second or third largest broadway area in the world. The amount of
plays, the Guthrie theater, all of the different things that happen just spurs. Most cities
that you go to people will say: “Ah, the music industry is so terrible and, there’s no more
work anymore.” By and large, if you go to the twin cities, they’ll say: “I can’t handle it all,
I won’t be able to see my kids, I won’t be able to see my wife.” So to be something next
to, something like that. [0:38:57] To have our pulse on what's happening in the music
industry is a really great combination. Fishing… Another great thing about Eau Claire
that I found out that when I first came here I used to have a sign that I put outside my17
door that said: “The reality of dreams comes from naive idealism.” and then I had to
take it down because the students found out that I was talking about them. But there’s a
wonderful sense here of just believing what your teacher says that doesn’t exist in most
places. Now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t question our teachers but, there’s
something about people in the upper midwest that there’s just more of a belief in
principles, I think. And that helps a person to be tremendously successful, if they
actually do what their teacher says. You know here, I’m sure you two are very much like
that because you’re on these projects and such. But… there are places where they
have very intelligent students but, I think the most moldable students we can have are
those people that can do what their teacher says. Now, for the teacher, that’s an
incredible responsibility because they have to be right. Because you could lead
somebody down a different path. And… you know… that could lead… but I think that
the track record of people that come out of Eau Claire, certainly out of the music
department, is really excellent. I think it’s because of that combination… we have
several of us now that play in the Twin Cities and play in recitals here and go do
concerts and such. and … that’s a real.. And we bring the students with us so they get
to see what that playing is like. And then they bring that back to school here and end up
doing it for a living afterwards.

MR: Alright, so now we’re going to move on to talking about some of your teaching
highlights or career highlights. So, one of the questions I had was: The New York Times
called your Jazz Studies program one of the most well renown programs in the country.
What do you think makes this program different than others? 18

RB: Well, first of all, since we are talking about history, we’ll get our facts the way they
actually should be put down. We give 1000% of the credit for that phrase coming from
the New York Times to Justin Vernon because that particular article, you can look it up,
was writing about Justin Vernon and what he was doing with his grammy award and the
interviewer from the New York Times was trying to do what you’re doing with Justin
Vernon. And he said: “Yeah, I understand that you grew up in an environment in Eau
Claire, Wisconsin. Which I heard, ta da ladada, you know so that where we got that
phrase. So, we thank Justin for that. How I really think Eau Claire is unique... are you
specifically talking about the Jazz program now?

MR: Yeah, the Jazz Studies program


RB: Jazz Studies? Okay… … It’s this very unique chemistry and it’s why I’ve stayed
here so long, it doesn’t exist anywhere else that I know of. And part of it is what I just
mentioned about the students, is they actually do what you tell them to do. Because
they don’t have 13 different opinions telling them 13 different things and they end up
doing nothing. So, our situation was in the beginning, we had a very small, very great
Jazz program here that was founded by the George Washington of the Jazz program, it
was a guy named Joe Casey(?), Joe Casey had got things going. But then there was
like... you’ve heard of Louis Armstrong so, there were many people before Louis
Armstrong had really got Jazz going. Louis Armstrong was just this different kind of
personality, kind of this ambassador. Because of his character we look at him as really
being the father of Jazz or the George Washington of Jazz. And the George19
Washington of Jazz at the UW-Eau Claire program was a person named Dominic
Spara. He is a larger than life personality who had played a lot in New York City. He is a
great, probably 76 or 77 now, a great great great trumpet player. But he had this italian
stallion… he was like Sinatra, you know, when you think about Sinatra, he just had this
charisma and that type of personality. He molded the students here, he called them
‘Jack Pine Savages’ and he molded the students into something truly great. And the first
time that Eau Claire had gotten on the national map, was under his direction. And the
countless students that have become major figures in everything, in music, but in other
things than music. Look up this name: RG Conlee, R G and then C O N L E E. He is the
vice president of the Xerox corporation, he is the Chief Innovative Officer and he told
me it was all because of Mr. Spara and what he taught him in Jazz ensemble when he
was a music ed major at UW- Eau Claire. I think I heard that he might be the
commencement speaker this year. But it’s an incredible story but that’s just one. So he
shaped all of these people and he helped get this started, but things had gone down
quite a bit after he left in 1977. And he actually went to Indiana University and he was
the guy that I joined a jazz band because of, which is kind of ironic. Um, but we used to
practice in the morning and and uh long story but I learned jazz music because because
of him. And so, so after he left things had gone down a little bit there were a couple of
other really great uh directors here uh there was another one who has been a real
mentor of mine, his name was Hank Maunter, M A U N T E R. And Hank lives in
cincinnati now I think he is probably in his mid 70’s and and he had he had a
tremendous, he had a good jazz program here too. But, but after him things had gone20
down quite a bit and I started with just a couple of uh jazz ensembles and what I
realized right away is that we didn’t have specialty teachers. That’s a person that
teaches you how to play jazz bass. We had, you know remember I was talking to you
about the difference between classical and jazz. So we had classical piano players
here, we have five of them actually. But we didn’t have any that could play jazz. And
(clears throat) those rhythm section instruments are absolutely crucial for getting a band
to swing, to sound good. Uh, so I knew we weren’t going to get that and jazz studies
programs were coming up all across the United States, uh, at that time. I decided to go
the opposite route, and to boast from the mountain tops that we didn’t have a jazz
studies program, rather than to be afraid of it, to embrace it. And to say we train our
musicians to be such good classical musicians in the curriculum. And that what we do in
the jazz area is we have this albatross that you can’t get a degree for, You can just join
these jazz bands and if we can get those to be so good, then students would have to
come here to study classical music, which gives them all of the skills to be really good
jazz players. If people go right into jazz, they don’t learn how to play their instrument
very well. So they can, and so it’s physically difficult for them to play their instrument. So
if they, if they go through a classical route, they get to learn how to express themselves.
Every type of sound that they can think of, they can actually do physically. And that they
can go to jazz and play that. So we boasted that from the mountain tops and do today,
uh too. So we teach that kind of jazz studies degree, um and it worked, um and it
worked for us. It became an attractive feature, um especially because we say we are
better preparing people for the world. Because we are teaching them to play all kinds of
music, rather than just one, And I will use that figure a lot of times that jazz is only one
percent of, you know the kind of music that’s, that’s out there. Uh because of that, we’ve
had, we’ve had a tremendous track record of people that have gone from UW
Eau-Claire into country music, into indie music obviously with what Justin is doing.
Shawn Carey um was in that jazz program and Justin was not in the jazz program, but
um I will explain that in a second. Um, so that’s basically what happens in the jazz. So
our whole area runs around apprenticeship. So we have, we have four to five big bands,
and we have these different combos, but you can take as a class but not for a degree.
The average person that comes into the jazz program stays in the jazz program every
semester, and then they work their way up through the bands. [0:50:20] So, so how do
we get quality? We get it by creating New York City in Eau Claire. So we have jazz six
nights a week here. All the teachers, we get to know our students like my trumpet
teacher did -better than themselves. We become good friends with them and so they
can count on us to have a conversation at 9 o'clock at night. Um, or practice with each
other at 7 o’clock in the morning, which I will be doing tomorrow, practicing with a
trumpet player. So, we get to know each other one on one, we go out to lunch, we hang
out with each other, we bring them to our gigs, and all the jazz professors, uh do that.
Um so we are kinda just like this one big fat family. And now we have close to one
hundred people that are involved in that, in that area. Does that make any sense?

LS & MR: Yes

RB: So it’s an apprenticeship kind of program; we are all very active in the profession
and so we know what to be able to, to tell them. Now, there is another aspect, and that
is where Justin Vernon comes in. We really try to tell our students about not just playing
jazz. We are about all kinds of, we call it commercial contemporary music, with
everything I mentioned before; alternative music, indie music, everything. But to do that,
you become a really good jazz musician. It’s really easy to do one of the others; to do
indie music and to be a real good jazz musician is very difficult to, to do. So (clears
throat), so what they do is they have all types of other ad-hoc groups, and there’s
hundreds, there’s hundreds of them. Have you ever heard of a group called docs
robotics? They have kind of gone down this last year but they were really something,
um these last several years. And that was uh, that was a hip-hop group that involved
horns. Well that was the dream child of a person named Chris Berg, who is probably
one of the best bee-bop jazz improvisers we have in the school. But he really wants to,
he really wants to do hip-hop music, and he wants to bring the trumpet more into
hip-hop music. And so he’s graduating and he’s going to L.A. next year to start that, to
start that route. Um, and there’s story after story after story. So the students here are
not confined to just one type of music. So Justin did not play in the jazz ensemble, but
he was in many of the different groups of people who were in the jazz ensembles. Phil
Cook, another tremendous, he didn’t get a grammy, but a tremendous indie musician.
And he was a pianist in jazz two, and Shawn Carey was the drummer in jazz one. So,
so a lot of the guys that were out doing that, were hanging out with people from the jazz
ensemble program as well.

MR: And then, um how do you think the jazz studies programs and the music programs
have changed since you’ve gotten here? What has been the biggest change?23
RB: I think they have gotten much better.
MR: Ok
RB: Yeah, they’ve definitely gotten better, much, much better. Now, now again you are
hearing from a person, you know who’s competent in trumpet and jazz studies, but, but
you know let me say, and, and they’ve gotten recognition okay. And, and why have they
gotten recognition? Um, there is not a whole lot of them, there’s 18 musicians there. So,
so travel is a lot easier for us to put a CD out, is, is a lot easier. But I think, I think what
makes the jazz program so great is, is the classical program. Because it’s not, it’s not as
I mentioned before they get this greatest; the symphony orchestra is fabulous, the
choirs are tremendous, uh here. The band programs is tremendous here, and probably
one of the biggest selling points, is that it’s all undergraduate students, all 18-22. So that
means that you are not competing for chairs with 40 year olds, or people that taught in
college and are going back for a doctorate. So they are all in that way, the music
department is like one big family. And i’ve gotten off track here with your question, what
was the question? What was it again?
MR: Uh, I was just wondering how it has changed. How is…

RB: So, so how it's changed, uh how it's changed. Well, well we had uh, uh we had
faculty here that uh stayed here um (coughs), this was pretty much the only job that
they had had. And that was up until about, that was up until about maybe ten or eleven
years ago. And now our faculty because of pay and everything like that revolves around
or this is a trend that is not just happening at Eau Claire, but a trend that is happening
all over across the nation. There’s a book right now called, I don’t remember the author
but I am reading it, called Professor Zen, which is talking about the difference in higher
education, saying that all across the country, more part-time faculty, a part-time faculty
professor that teaches at three different colleges is becoming more of the norm, rather
than a full time professor. And so we are just one of those colleges that are, you know
facing that. I would say the biggest thing that has changed here is that we have
embraced the 21st century.

MR: Ok

RB: So we have now, all across the board, with all of our music groups, um are really
into doing; embracing the 21st century doesn’t mean, um, doesn’t mean Malher in
classical music was the last part of the 18, 1800’s, and then Strupinski, if you have ever
heard that name? Schoenberg, Berg, those were the beginning of the, the 20th century,
and I am not talking about that, I am talking about embracing world music and
embracing commercial, um commercial music. That's, so the jazz program, we are
doing more concert works, more classical type works. And then the, uh, orchestra and
the bands, you know are also doing types of commercial works as well.

MR: And then finally, um, where do the alumni of the university's music department,
where do they go after graduation? And do you think their training here gives them an
upper hand in the professional music world.

RB: No question about it. Yeah, I think that UW Eau-Claire is one of the best kept
secrets in this nation. And we actually hear that from most other people in our
profession. Because we are a tier three university, we are not on the cover of a


Um, but what we produce here particularly for the fact that we are25
all undergraduate and don’t have a master’s degree, the students we produce here, I
believe, are as good as any other top college in the, in the nation. And the students that
we’ve had here, um I can’t speak for the classical areas, I know we all, we’re all kind of
in our own worlds, you know? Um, but, but I know for a fact that history, setting for a
history, that the other areas are exactly like mine. We have to know that up front, but I
can’t talk about that because I, I don’t know them as much. They couldn’t talk about my
area as much, but my area, um, we have uh, we have most it would be well into the
high 90 percent of our students that graduate from here that go on to the top five
graduate schools in the nation; Juilliard, Indiana, University of Miami, North Texas
State, uh Eastman School of Music, uh get full rides to those schools. And then those
schools, um, are where a tremendous job will come from because these are the top five
universities, and our students will go right into the top groups. And they’ll make this
huge, huge splash, and they will be one of those top two or three students in a particular
area. And when the jobs come down to those areas, they get these tremendous
opportunities. We are kind of like a boot camp for putting people into the profession. So
what have they done eventually? We have people that are, uh, in New York that are
playing, teaching, uh playing broadway shows. We have many musicians that are in
broadway shows. We have students that are involved in Los Angeles, lots with studio
recording, changing engineering there. Um, I don’t know if you guys were involved with,
we just had a hundreth anniversary for the university and we had uh, concert that was
supposed to be the significance of the hundred years. We chose, in the jazz area, a guy
named Kyle Newmaster, and Kyle writes for Lucasfilm. Um, he has done 42 movies, um
now, he’s the trumpet player on family guy, and a lot of, you know, fox, uh network stuff.
And uh, and teachers, and this is primarily a teacher’s college, with the largest music
education, uh school in the state of, uh Wisconsin. And we have over a hundred percent
placement for our students. But, the amount of people that are performing, from this
school for a living, in this shrinking industry, uh is really, is really something. And, and I
attribute that to everything we’ve talked about here, you know, so far.

LS: Um, so we’re going to kinda transition into like the Eau Claire area in general, and
like the jazz in Eau Claire. So um, what was the jazz scene in Eau Claire like when you
got here? Like when you arrived?

RB: Um, close to nonexistent.

LS: And so, how has it evolved, and how is it like now?

RB: Wow, um

LS: Or what is it like now?

RB: Yeah, well uh, I think it’s a little bit of what I described, uh previously. Um, uh, best
way I can describe it is that students are because they are the way they are, they are
like little children, that are always trying to learn. They are principle oriented, um, uh
because of strains that go on you from being in music, they are very mature. Um, they
are very hard workers. Um, they are patient. Um, uh, they are, they are more in that A
actor category. Um, and when you talk, and you are certainly welcome to talk to
someone, and I probably think it would be a good idea to do actually. Um, but to just
see how driven, um, they are. The purpose of the commitment they have, you know, is
incredible. And uh, they are very entrepreneuic. So the entire area works on this idea,27
entrepreneuic, um, which means they create their own groups. You know these different
groups that they have, um around the university. And so, they do things beyond their
classes. And they create this scene, where there is six nights of, you know jazz that
happened. Another thing that brings the community into it, is because we are not in the
curriculum. That does not restrict us; that gives us a tremendous amount of freedom.
So as long as we get to know them personally and, and you know get to be friends and
everything, we bring in the entire community. So there are musicians that are here from
back in those great days, in the early 70’s. And those people are like 50 years old now,
and they just love to stay in this community. And they are still playing, and they play
great. And we bring them in all the time to do clinics and create this sense of you know,
family here. And to say, you know, here is what it was like in the early 70’s, and here’s
what it was like in the early 80’s, to give some sort of history, uh, to it, to feel like you
are a part of something, uh, you know, big. So, uh, we are very interactive with the uh,
with the community. And I think that’s with a lot of the renaissance that’s happening um,
right now.


Um, I think that has to do with this, with this family-like thing in the
jazz area, and what’s happening in the community now. Another angle for that? Or is
that pretty much what you are looking for?

LS: Yeah, um, I think that’s pretty good. Um, kind of like what is the enthusiasm for like
the community? I think we are just gonna, kinda to see like what, like what outside the
university people that aren’t like students, and how they kind of rally around the jazz
program? And how they like to grow with it as they grew? 28

RB: I think many of them came from the jazz program, and so they are just very familiar,
uh, with it. And it has such a long, uh, history, and now where some people would go to
New York, and some go to Los Angeles and the Twin Cities. Um, there are some
people that um, want to stay here, and uh, do something. Um, a student named Nicole
Johnson, who is a sophomore right now, went to the last meeting that Jason Anderson,
Shawn Carey, Nick Meyer, and I don’t think Justin was there for that; Zack Holmstead
was there, it was on the front page of the, of the webpage. And they were just talking
about, you know what about this is creating this renaissance? They were all saying it’s
the arts. And, and uh so Nicole Johnson went to that, and she talked to, well she talked
to Shawn Carey, and she said, she is like a student here, she is like what can I do? And
she’s a very serious player, great trumpet player, and Shawn Carey said “Lock yourself
up in a practice room, you know, play as much as you possibly can!” And she talked to
Zack Holmstead, and Zack is the CEO of JAMF, um you know the new building. Zack
was a pianist in the second jazz ensemble, and he always wanted to be in the first jazz
ensemble. So then he finally got into the first jazz ensemble, and I think it was after a
semester or something he said “I really have to quit.” And I said “why?”, “you really
wanted to be in this band for so long.” And he said, “I got this job across the river, in the
computer area.” And I said, “Zack, come on, the probably hardly pays, probably hardly
pays, uh anything.” He says, “as a matter of fact, I am going to do it full-time.” “Really? I
mean, don’t you want to go to college and keep a career, uh going?” And then he talked
about what he was getting paid, and it was at least as much as my salary. Um, and I
think he was a junior in college then. Of course he got together with a couple of the29
guys then, and they formed this program where computers all talked to each other. Um,
and that’s how JAMF got started, then they made that into, they made that into uh,
company. At heart, he is a die hard, you know jazz, you know jazz musician. Um, but
with Nicole Johnson, she talked to, uh, Zack Holmstead. And he said “get something
started here!”,”do something for your own community.” So now Nicole, as opposed to
wanting to go out to New York, was what she originally wanted to do, or one of these
bigger cities, she wants to start right now, creating some of these different groups,
getting the community people involved. She wants to do what Zack is doing right now,
here in Eau Claire. And she wants to live here for the rest of her life. And that’s that
family atmosphere, you know? That I am, that I am talking about.

LS: Mmmhmm. Um, do you claim a role in the evolution of like the jazz program? And
like the jazz atmosphere?

RB: Well, you know, I mean I’m a, I’m a facilitator. So I, if that’s, if that’s a role. What I
try to do is to take the experiences, like any teacher tries to do, I try to take the
experiences that i’ve had and create that same environment here. And so, so, it’s
creating experiences. Now, what the student do with that, that’s where the real creativity
comes from. So it’s, it’s what they, it’s what they do.

LS: Um, and so, you have been involved in shaping and nurturing the Eau Claire jazz
festival, and so what is that like for you to help organize, um this festival as an educator,
and also as a musician?

RB: Oh gosh, it’s huge. Um, so it’s an albatross, um when I first um, found out about
what the jazz festival was, um my colleague Ron Keeser; and are you allowed to30
interview people outside of the university? Or do you have to, do you have to just keep it
with me?

LS: Well I think others are doing interviews with people.

RB: Ok. Because the guy that really knows the history, way better than I do is actually
Ron Keeser.

LS: I am pretty sure someone interviewed him. I am pretty sure.

RB: He’s gonna get, he is going to have the facts probably a lot more accurate than I
have because he is like a walking history book. And he was, Ron Keeser was my
colleague up until 15 years ago. He is probably 70, 77 or 78, something like that now.
And he was here from the very beginning. So everything I am telling you, are things that
he told me of what it was like uh, back then. Uh, but he lived, uh he lived, and his son,
you know about his son Jeff Keeser? He’s a, he’s a, he was one of Zack Holmstead’s
best friends, and whenever Jeff comes back into town, he stays at Zack’s house. Jeff
Keeser is one of the top five jazz pianists in the world.

LS: Wow.

RB: He came from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He never went to school here. He would, by
the time the jazz program, when I first came here, when he was a junior and a senior in
college, and during that time he wrote 14 big band charts and he wrote over 300 small
group charts. He’s just a genius. He was is college for one year, and he started playing
professionally. But that’s, that’s Ron Keeser’s son. Um, go back to your question again.
So let me get back on track.

LS: Um like how did you like, like how or what is it like for you to shape the jazz festival?

RB: The jazz festival, ok.

LS: Or just like comments on the jazz festival in general.

RB: So, so, so how that came about is Ron Keeser um, was when Hank Mountner left,
and like Ron Keeser was like, like a father to to me. And he really helped me with every
different aspect of my job. And he wrote out, everything that he knew about the jazz
festival on an 8x11 sheet of paper. The entire thing, like he wrote very small, and he
wrote in this direction and this direction. And you know this, this piece of paper was this
fairly large jazz festival. Um, so I was one of the first faculty members to get a
Macintosh computer when they first came out, so I get to learn how to organize um this,
this festival. [1:12:09] And because we didn’t have a lot of the help, um we just got
students from the jazz area to volunteer um, under the idea of entrepreneurship, to uh,
to develop this jazz festival. So that turned into having 12 or 13 students, and when it
went way up and then we had a period about 2005, where it really started to go down.
And it was because the economy was, or maybe it was 2006 or 2007, but the economy
started to go down. And so bands, our entire revenue stream in the jazz festival was
dependent on the number of bands that came. Because we had no donors or the
concerts, it was just the number of bands that came. And that started to decrease
drastically because bands couldn’t travel anymore, coming to festivals. So they created
festivals of their own, with maybe 10 or 12 bands around their home community, and we
were losing all of these bands. So we had to, we had to become like disneyland. So you
know people will come to valleyfair, they will come to, you know six flags, but everyone
goes to disneyland, and they will do that in addition. So in 2008, I talked to the32
Chancellor, Bryan Levin-Stankevich at that time, and I said that I would like to expand
the jazz festival into the city. We already have this community, we are all like family
together, and I would like to have more community people come to the concerts, and I
want to expand, you know expand it out. So, so he was uh, a very business oriented
Chancellor. There is a huge difference between academia and the private sector.
That’s, that is where you get the ivory tower effect because private sector will feel that
academia has no clue what the real world is about.

LS: Hmmmhmmm

RB: And they think that they are kind of dumb as well. So, so this chancellor was a
businessman, and he put out the first strategic plan for our university, which is what
every business does. Number one on the list was back then was, was money was going
down farther and farther and there was less taxpayer money; national trend again: less
taxpayer money for universities. So, so when I first started, I believe the number was 79
percent. I could be off on that, but taxpayer money was 79 percent of the budget in the
whole University of Wisconsin system. By the time 2008 came, it was 19 and/or early
20’s or something like that. So there was just like, like, and so there was just this whole
trickle-down economics thing that was happening too, where Madison was getting a lot
of the money and the other universities weren’t. He did such a good job with the
university fiscally, that he actually wanted to pull away from the system, cause he was
like they are sucking this out of us, you know? And we can really do this better on our
own and (cough) he was very, and I say that at this business background. And uh, he
talked to me about how I could do it. Well what really got the Eau Claire jazz33
incorporated started was uh, Nick Meyer. And have you heard about Nick Meyer? Do
you know about him?

LS: Sounds familiar, but….

RB: He is the founder of volume one magazine. Have you ever heard of volume one?

LS: Yeah.

RB: Ok, it’s, volume one is the thing that is most responsible for the renaissance we
have going on in Eau Claire right now. And so, one paragraph about that and you can
watch a video on it too; Nick Meyer was a student here, and he had this idea, this group
that he really loved. They are out of Chicago, and he really wanted to bring the group
here. They ended up playing at some club here, and the uh, the, he went to the
telegram and he said that, “I’ve got this great group that’s going to be coming here, you,
you should have this group here, I would love to advertise it to get out there.” And they
said kind of like “son, that’s not the way we do it here.” And he was like “but this group is
like really great, and I would really like to get something, you know, in the paper.” He
said,”I’ll do everything. I will take the pictures.” I think he was an english major. He said
“I’ll get the pictures. I will get everything together.” And they were just like, “Thanks. But
no thanks.” So he was like, “great, I’m going to start a paper of my own, on what’s really
important in Eau Claire.” And that’s what he did, that was the beginning of volume um,
volume one, which is the arts and entertainment news in Eau Claire. You’ve got to pick
up a magazine of it sometime, they are on shelves everywhere. And they look like,they
look like city pages for bigger cities, but they are not. It’s, their distribution way out does
the leader telegram. I think it’s, it’s 60-70 thousand. Distribution right in Eau Claire, and
they are this icon, that is helping to create all of these different things. Phoenix park,
have you ever been to Phoenix park? They created that.

LS: Mmmmhmmm

RB: And uh, they did the series. And all of these guys that are involved in this
renaissance, they are all good friends with each other and hang out with each other.
Nick, Nick meyer is one of them. Zack Holmstead, the head of JAMF is one of them.
Have you ever heard of this person Michael Perry? Michael Perry is a national,
nationally known, Vogue magazine, Time magazine poet. And he’s like a, have you ever
heard of Garrison Keeler? Garrison Keeler runs, he, he invented an idea called lake
wobblegone, and it was something that made fun of Minnesota people. And, oh
remember that guy?

LS: Oh! Yeah, yeah.

RB: And he was on national, well he is retired now, but he was on national public radio
every Saturday. And the whole nation listened to that.

LS: Mmmmhmmm

RB: And Michael used that same kind of figure, but he does it with Wisconsin people.

LS & MR: (Laughs).

RB: And so he lives right in Augusta. And they all have this, this huge reputation
professionally, in their field, but they all choose to stay in Eau Claire. And they boast
about that to all of their readers, why Eau Claire was in Time magazine this last june..

LS: Mmmmhmmmm. 35

RB: one of the greatest places to live because they say so. And that is basically
what, you know that, what that is. But, I gotta go back to the question again.

LS: Um, where, we were still talking about the jazz festival. Mmmm, yeah.

RB: Jazz festival. So uh, ok. So, so I said that I would like to start a nonprofit
corporation inside the university to help make this happen. So the Chancellor let me do
that. And so, that’s what Eau Claire jazz is. Um the music department has been
gracious enough, where they have given us offices now, so we have six offices. I will
show you before, before we go. And what it is, it’s, it’s an entrepreneurship program for
students, but the university professors who are in business areas, you know business,
marketing, publicity, they send interns to us. And then also, we take about 50 percent
music people because they are going to be, they are going to be in business as well
with band directors, corporate CEO, you know with students? Soo those are the interns,
and we have a board of about 15 people that, who are some of the biggest movers and
shakers in town. From radio announcers, to CEO’s of Oakleaf Surgical Center, to other
entrepreneurs in town; so these people, are what these people want to be like. And they
love being connected to this because they are older, and they love being around college
students; that vibrancy, and you know, everything like that. So they loan their expertise
and there’s, there's always this ivory tower system with the university, through this
corporation. They are now connected with the university. And so, it’s, it’s something that
the chancellor, um loves. The Vice-Chancellor loves it. And most professors love, it’s
called the Eau Claire Jazz Incorporated. [1:21:30] So, so what they do, is so we put on
the jazz festival, and the jazz festival is never been as successful as it is right now36
because we have a marketing team that’s made up of marketing majors, publicity
majors, we have a whole communication team, but it’s directed by the head of visit Eau
Claire. The, the marketing director for tv-13, the foundation director of the new
marshfield clinic, like people, like this is what they do for a living. And then they’re giving
them instructions, that are really practical to uh, to uh, work out. So the, the jazz festival
and the gatsby gala, and they do something called 52nd street. Have you ever heard of

LS: I think so, but maybe just elaborate it.

RB: You need to go to this. It’s pretty incredible. So on April 21st, on Friday night, the
last, first year, 700 people. Uh, second year, 1900 people. Last year, 3600 people, um
for it. So, we take, we take, sixteen clubs on Barstow street, and turn them into jazz
clubs. And we have sixty bands that play all these clubs from 5pm until 2 o’clock in the
morning. So you get, I don’t know, you get some ridiculous wristband price, like 7$ or
something like that. I think it is even cheaper for a student. And you’ll, so you’ll go down
to the restaurant and you’ll get something to eat, and you’re in this period from 5 o’clock
to 10 o’clock, and that’s called it's all-jazz. So that’s string quartets, that’s small, little
jazz groups, the Shoely Lads are doing Irish music. And it’s, it’s indie music, it’s
everything that’s there. You just go from club to club, and you listen to all these different
types of music from 5 o’clock to 10 o’clock. And from 10-11:30, that’s called the
historical jazz period, where you hear dixieland bands, big bands, bebop Charlie Parker
groups, contemporary out there jazz. And you know these clubs are jam packed, so37
there is the party aspect of it, uh too. And then from 11:30 till 2, there’s party bands,
then there is also small groups. Over 21?

LS: You will be soon (points to Maddy).

MR: I will be.

RB: You will be. So you can go Lizzie to the stone’s throw, and number one they have
this incredible band that plays there at 10 o’clock. But it takes you 40 minutes to walk
from the back to the front, cause it’s so jam packed, and it’s so cool. And then they add
this tribute band, um that Evan Meddlesworth runs, and you don’t even know that there
is talent like that in Eau Claire. I mean it’s, it’s this tribute like you know earth, wind, and
fire, and this other types of groups. And the band is incredible! And so, that is what you
do on 52nd street. 52nd street was actually an area in New York City from 1938 to
about 1952. It was about a block and a half area where they had, I think it was just
about six clubs. And, and jazz musicians went there with their instruments, and they
would go and sit in the various groups. But what everybody did is you’d, you’d go from
one group and you’d hear, and you’d go to the next club, and the next club. It was great
for the audience; you could hear Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, you’d
hear them all in the same block on a weekend and be able to hear all this. So the idea is
built around that. And so, Eau Claire jazz does that, and that’s led by the city engineer,
and his name is John Genskow, who is on the board, and we close the streets down,
and there’s three brass bands in the streets. And we, we feel that this year, that people
will be actually hanging out in the streets, you know a lot longer. So, yeah you know,
and so the organization of Eau Claire jazz does that uh, as well. That’s the biggest thing
that I think has been happening uh, lately is that we are involving all of these people, the
students the faculty, and the community, and we are all doing the same project, and
there is nothing in the university that is like it, according to the Chancellor.

LS: And, what does the future look like for the jazz program? And/or what would you
like it to look like?

RB: Well I think there’s, there’s things that I wanted, wanted on the very first day, that I
thought everyone did. But it has been 30 year later and we don’t have it yet, and I think
that’s the way any profession is. Um, but I think it just needs to be moving in the same


It, I’ll be honest with you, it all, it all moves with people. So, what our
job is as teachers is, is to find an individual that’s got it. That, that, that believes, that
can think spontaneously, um that questions, but are confident enough to say, you know
respectfully, that I just don’t get that. That is a person that I think that’s got it. Um, uh
that has a tireless work ethic, that is not afraid to fail, and then we look for those people,
and we try to really nurture that, and all other people want that, so they gravitate around
that, and that just spreads. And, and right now we are at a high, uh with that. Five years
ago, we were at a low, uh with it, we had just a couple of individuals that almost sank
the titanic um because it went the other direction. The belief, you know went away. And
so, so why I think it is really good now is because there is such a vibrant atmosphere.
Everyone wants to make a CD, everybody wants to have their own group. Um, they are
not selling themselves short, they believe that they can literally do anything. And
therefore, you know a person can want to become an astronaut, this is a story about my
son, I guess, but he really wanted to become an astronaut. And we did that buy, when39
he was three years old, and we didn’t want him to get those rugrat dolls and get that
junk from k-mart so, I bought the NASA channel on t.v, and we just watched that, like
when he was three years old. And, and it was a no brainer, and by the time he was five,
he wanted to be an astronaut. Well, if you wanna be an astronaut, you gotta be good at
math. There it was, not that he didn’t like math, but because he wanted to be an
astronaut. Well, you are going to have to be really good in the sciences, you have to,
have to feel comfortable with all people around you if you are going to be an astronaut.
And then when he was a freshman at Memorial, they wanted to change the curriculums,
so you could decide what you wanted to do, when you are 14 years old. What a
ridiculous idea that is. And so they were going to each student, they were saying, were
saying you know, let me give you all the facts, so you can figure out what you want to
do. Well where does that leave music? Out. Because there is not much of an industry.
But music is, that’s the glue that makes you successful at everything. Um, so you’ve
gotta be in music. And so, so he brought me in one day and he said, dad, he was kind
of a do I or don’t I kind of kid, and he said dad, you’ve gotta come with me to this
meeting. So I went to this meeting, and there was this counselor there, and he said, we
are here because your son is choosing what he is going to be doing. And he was a
freshman! High school is supposed to be where you try everything out like a
smorgasbord, and say that’s great, and that’s not so great. And you start to narrow
things down. And so he had to make up his mind on what he was wanting to do. And,
and so he said so, so Alec tell dad what you want to do. [1:30:21] And that was the first
time ever that I ever saw my son, put his head down, and that was a very awkward40
moment. And so, we looked back at each other like, son tell him what you want to do,
and he wouldn’t speak. I said he wants to be an astronaut, and the counselor said well, I
told him how impossible that was and he was going to have to choose something else.
And that kid, because of that meeting, did not believe in himself for three years.
Because he thought there were limitations, he thought I will never be able to do that
because there is only four people that get to be an astronaut or whatever it is in the
program. I could never be one of the thousand people to do that. You know, who’s to
say you wouldn’t dream about being an astronaut and go that exact same route, and I
don’t know, major in astrophysics? You know because it’s on the course. And right here
you say wow, wow jet airplane engines, now that’s where it’s at! You know, but you can
never do that unless you were trying to be the astronaut, you know first. You don’t fall in
love with jet engines at five years old. So that is what we try to do with students here, is
to, is to help them to dream, the reality of dreams, comes from naive idealism. And, and
so we try to show them, we try to bring those people in, and say it is, it is possible. And
that has created, you know many of them have made a living doing that. But many
others like RJ Conley become the vice president of, of you know the Xerox corporation
because they had something that they,that they believed in.

LS: Ok so just one last thing is, do you have anything to add? Or something that we
didn’t ask you that you wished we would ask you?

RB: I don’t think so.

LS: Ok.

RB: Anything that you can think of? 41

LS & MR: I don’t think so.

LS: I think we covered everything.

MR: So that was pretty, that was awesome. [1:32:38]

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