Gary Schwartzhoff Interview, pt. 2




Gary Schwartzhoff is a former director of choral activities from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. He was influenced in music by his catholic church during his childhood, which eventually led him down his career path. In this Oral History, Schwartzhoff discusses his roles and responsibilities as director of choral activities, his work with the Viennese Ball, and how he coordinated the UWEC choirs with the Ball. He also discusses his work with Ada Bors and her impact on the Ball.


Interviewers Thomas Rocque and Curtis Guhl


April 23, 2019


T: Alright so I’m Thomas Rocque and I’m here with

C: Curtis Guhl

T: and

G: Gary Schwartzhoff

T: okay could you spell your first and last name for us please, haha

G: G-a-r-y S-c-h-w-a-r-t-z-h-o-f-f

T: Awesome, and when were you born?

G: Oh my goodness. Now your getting pretty personal right off the bat here. O1951

T: Alrighty, and where you born in Wisconsin or were you from somewhere else?

G: I was born in southeastern Minnesota, and then my parents rushed me across the border back into Iowa, so I was just there for a little bit.

T: for just a little bit. The Vikings didn’t get ahold of you?

G: ooohh no no no no

T: Um, what year were you employed at UW- Eau Claire?

G: 1991 to 2016

T: okay, um.

G: longer if it had not been for Scott Walker.

T: Haha Okay. Uh, can you tell us a bit about your family and what it was like growing up?

G: well, I am one of 8 children. Um, my mom and dad so were a family of 10. The family came in two quartets as I describe it. There’s an older four, and a younger four. My mom took a couple of years off in the middle. Um, and were raised on a farm in northeast Iowa, and when I was in 6th grade my two oldest brothers got married and the farm went to my two brothers, they got married in the same summer so for the farm to stay in the family mom and dad had to move off the farm, built their retirement home and then, I don’t know how much you want here but, from them 6th grade through my freshman year of college I was my brother’s hired man. Helping him on the farm during that time. I went to Central College in Pell Iowa, for my undergrad, taught in three different schools in Iowa St. Ansgar, Charles City, and Ames High School, Those Three, while in Charles City I went to University of Northern Iowa, got my master’s in music in 1985 we left Iowa for two years, went to University of Missouri Kansas City to get my doctorate in choral music. And then um in 87 moved to Ames Iowa taught there for four years at the
high school and then a place called Eau Claire called and then we moved here and taught for 25 years.

T: Okay, um can you tell us a little bit about how you arrived at that career path? What got you involved in music?

G: I am in music today because of the church. Because of being raised in the catholic church and singing Gregorian chant which made a large impression on my life, I had a good and caring high school choral director those two factors probable galvanized the fact that it was going to be music for me.

T: okay so, what was your role at UW-Eau Claire when you were hired?

G: I was the Director of choral activities, which is to say to manage and promote the 6 choirs, there were seven when I started here. Manage and promote them when I say manage I’m talking about personnel, placing students in ensembles beyond that I was conductor of concert choir and the singing statesmen, the chamber choir, I taught choral methods classes and observed student teachers.

T: Awesome, so you kind of touched on how many groups you conducted, about how many concerts did you help put on every year?

G: oh lord, a lot of them. Know that in addition to those three choirs I also have the master singers, it’s a community group of 40 people I have the chance choir of the First Congregational Church. Um wow I’m sure I’ve never even totaled that one up. I would say it would be somewhere in the realm of 50 a year, that’s an estimate

T: Okay, so we’re going to move on more to the Viennese Ball now, how many tears did you participate in the V-Ball?

G: 25

T: 25, okay. When did you first become aware of the Viennese ball?

G: well first of all, in the interest of total accuracy I was there for 25 years that would be 50 V-Balls. Davies center was renovated in the early 2000’s. 2000 something or other and they shut down the ball for a year.


T: okay

G: The ball didn’t happen for a year, cabaret didn’t happen for a year, because of the, this is before the new Davies, Davies center was being renovated and they just decided that it was too much to work around and so they shut it down. I was 40 performances at the ball. When did I become aware of it? well first of all the previous extended director of choral activities Morris Hayes was an associate friend I guess you could say of mine we had known each other for several years and he had talked to me a lot about the program and I’m sure we had discussed V-Ball as a possibility, although I did not get the job when he retired he was always someone who helped promote me and said that I should look at coming to Eau Claire.

T: Okay, do you have any recollection which year it was that you first attended the V-ball?


T: okay (6:02)

G: it was the spring of that, 91-92 was my first yearT: What would you say your first impressions were of the V-Ball when you were first there?

G: Well, it’s a cornucopia of music, first of all from my standpoint if it weren’t for music it probably would be a much different event than what it is wrapped in the cloak of Austrian culture. Ada Bores who started the ball here and guided it for many years is really the individual to be credited with the success of the ball. In the early years and projecting forward, she’s now deceased but she was a great individual she was very much in tune with what something of a very special nature was happening here in the
greater Chippewa valley and therefore brought to the ball considerable recognition on not just the local and state level but internationally as well, she really did make constant efforts to draw interest and corollaries between UW-Eau Claire the Viennese ball and the Viennese school. I mean she brought in Austrian… I don’t know what their titles were heads of state, not the president of the country, but artists, artistic individuals who were involved there when I was at UW Eau Claire we sand at the, Nancy remember the name of that in Chicago?

N: You mean the one in Milwaukee that you sang?

G: No Chicago there was a Viennese event in Chicago

N: It was something with the um….. some partnership with

G: Austrian, it was more an afternoon and evening event rather than something over two days, and she had us going over there and performing for that. We have traveled on multiple tours on statesmen having gone to Austria. So, there was always an interest to explore Austrian culture and make an informative educational

N: Austrian Trade Commission

G: yeah, they’re the ones behind it

T: Okay, so what did you personally do with the V-Ball? Didi you direct, did you sing yourself, did you manage the choral groups or?

G: Well, I presented the Singing Statesmen at the ball, there are acapella groups at this day in age. The acapella groups all came from the choirs Innocent Men performed there, Impromptu came out of concert they performed there. There are several acapella groups that performed even in the early days of Viennese ball. There are many more today that are doing that. I didn’t have any role to play with the other choirs. My work with Statesmen, I tried again through the process of learning from ADA Bores on
what the event was and tried to help maintain an Austrian connection with the ball so our repertoire based almost exclusively was around Austrian culture and we did the Blue Danu, we did music of Schubert works mostly in German to help keep that alive in the ball.


T: How did the Statesmen first get involved with the ball? Were they invited, or how
does that work

G: Well in all my years here it was by invitation. Initially I believe this is before I came that the Statesmen were invited to participate and then eventually they did women’s concert chorales, so it was always by invitation of the Viennese Ball Committee.

T: So, how did you and all of your groups prepare for the ball? Were there extra practices or...

G: well its part of our… the performances of Viennese Ball when I was there, and I think they still do this today was part of our Syllabus. So, the repertoire for the performance of V-Ball was always part of our rehearsals in spring semester. Now doing this much German off score memorized takes a lot of drilling so we would spend a lot of time on it in each rehearsal I would say a half hour program would take up 45 minutes in most every rehearsal the rest being spent on other music for the rest of the semester but
that what we did.

T: So, was this like a part of your assignment or was this in addition to?

G: I never looked at the performance of the Viennese ball as an addition to its just something that the Statesmen were always engaged in and it was an opportunity for the ensemble to be involved in something quite frankly larger than themselves artistic musical guys loved it they loved being there, being a part of it.

T: so what types of music I know you mentioned German, a lot of German but what types of music would you perform?

G: as I said the Blue Danu was by Strauss the that plays all the time. The Statesmen would sing that piece. We did chamber music, when I say chamber music I mean music to be written for male chorus and for French horns. Music written by Schubert, as Austrian composer. We did music by Anton Bruckner, Music is the title of the piece Bruckner of course is Austrian. The Blue Danu we did every year, but our repertoire would change every year. There was some contemporary music and in English but most the music was from the Austrian culture

T: So, how much of that music did you control? Were you given music to perform or did you get to pick?

G: No there was never a playlist so to speak from the V-Ball committee there was always a decision of the artistic (wife cuts in)… yeah well they asked for the Austrian National Anthem the Statesmen sang Austrian national anthem and the US anthem for a long time ourselves eventually we kept the Austrian National Anthem the women’s concert chorale did the United States the Star Spangled Banner

T: did you personally get to perform at all at the balls?

G: Did I sing perform you men?

T: Yes

G: No

T: No?

G: the voice faculty at the anniversary sings as a vocal quartet so they fill that niche

T: Okay, lets see here… what did you wear to the ball was there like a uniform

G: Tuxes

T: Everyone wore tuxes?

G: Tails T: Okay, so you touched on this a little bit, I was going to ask where was the ball held? So before it was in the regular Davies center..


G: Well it was always in the Davies Center either previous or present, In Davies Center… do you remember the name of that room Nancy? Doesn’t really matter there was a room in that building given its size that was large enough that all the major

Nancy (wife to G): Tamarack room was one where the orchestra played

G: We were there in council fire it moved between the two rooms over the years depending on who was in charge and where they though the amount of work was. We had to move pianos and risers in stuff like that and then the orchestra would follow us typically so we were in the Tamarac room for a long time and moved to council fire toward the end but that was in the old Davies of course in the present building its in… what’s that room called?

Nancy: What’s what room called?

G: New Davies Center

C: like the Ojibwa ballroom

T: Or the Dakota Ballroom

G: No Ojibwa

T: Okay so you mentioned a lot of different groups but who else would perform other
than the Statesmen we know a lot about the States men we did on you

G: in the early days you mean?

T: Yeah

G: Well the Innocent Men have been involved with the ball for a very long time, since I guess my time here, and then you understand the groups have changed over the years there was a second men’s group that has kind of gone public they were an all-male group they were very successful, very very good musicians, top men in choir and Statemen joined in that group. They performed there as well. After their let’s say 6 years the tenure of those students on campus they decided to fold it they just closed it up and
shut up, closed down shop because they wanted the memory to be what it was not see it change over all the years. So that’s initially what it was then women’s concert chorale came in to that mix and the acapella ensemble proliferation group a lot from the early 1990’s and 1980’s in the old Davies center to the new building there’s a lot of activity the acapella groups go from as soon as the salon concert is over around 8/ 8:30 the acapella groups started they go until the ball is over at 1:00 so there’s a lot of them
there. Instrumentally it’s just the orchestra and jazz one and then a lot of other small groups I mean there a harp ensemble that plays sometimes in the hallway there’s other student ensembles, smaller ensembles, brass quartets quintets that have performed at the ball but the main stays at the ball have always been since 1990 forward the symphony orchestra at UW- Eau Claire, statesmen, women’s concert chorale and jazz one I mean those have been the premier groups and they’re still there today.

T: Okay, here’s a different question what kind of food was at the ball? Did you see that change a lot over time? Or was it the same?

Nancy: It was kind of the same. It had a German theme I would say. Ya know like brats and different things, pretzels the torts the desert torts have always been a main stay from like ya know the get go

G: The Viennese ball committee and those invited by the committee have a dinner each night like at 5:00 before the ball gets going at 6:00 and as staff that participate in the event you are invited to go to that but most everything that was presented at the, this is the chancellors dinner ya know he’s there, dignitaries if there are, those from the early days. I think that happened a lot more in the 90’s and with Ada’s departure the ball took on a different focus so anyway those people were always invited to be there at that and you get a chance to rub elbows with them, but most of the food that was served at that, as we later noted, was also available for purchase by patrons who come to the ball later ya know pick up a plate of food it was available there. So, I would say there has not been a lot of changes as she said its food indigenous to Austria.

T: Okay, So you mentioned Ada there and you said that it kinda takes on like a little bit of a different form after she passes, or after she leaves. Can you say a little bit more about that?

G: oh I could say a lot more depending on how much you want to know, this is going to get into the element of PC. Political Correctness. Yes I think Ada Bores is without question the reason that there is a Viennese Ball at UW- Eau Claire. She was highly successful at this she was a very detailed person. She dotted her I’s and crossed her t’s multiple times


G: before anyone saw the light of day. She was always concerned about keeping the umm. Spirit of the V-ball alive. Umm I've got more to say about that and I've got a couple questions for you here

T: Okay

G: That I want to present to you here. Umm to that end in other words, if you were to ask me compare the ball from 1991 to 2016 I would say there has been been a lot of artistic changes to the ball. I think it is focused on… Vienna culture is less important, it appears to the attendees today that it was. Ummm, when Ada Bors decided to retire, Beverly Sal came in, this is information you can read in the archives, the interviews were taken, spectator did an interview on Beverly Sal when she came and her um husband was working in the chancellors office and she came along obviously as a spouse, and low and behold Ada retires and Beverly Sal has job. Now did she have a background in this, not so much, not really, she made the comment in the interview that, “You know, my husband and I really don’t like to dance.”

G: Excuse me? Then why are you Involved here? Umm so, I would say in...with… when Ada retired that there was some interest in moving the ball to where what might be called the Chancellors ball. Or the Spring Ball. Rather than the Viennese Ball. Umm I think that the Davies center in the recent years, I'm sure its true of this year, was absolutely beautiful. The main ballroom especially is very artistic, very beautiful. In the Old Davies Center it was, it was ahh Old school, it was mind you a little bit of your high school theatre club/ drama club putting on a musical. They use a lot of the same set if you would, decorations for a very long time, then when it moved over to the new building, it needed to be updated and thankfully was. So I youknow, with change of people, change of interest over the years, those things are going to shift interests. And I would say that has a little bit. I know we still call course the Viennese Ball. And ummm…but I, to my eye for 1991 to 2016 the focus on the Austrian Culture Getmutlichkeit.
Do you Know what that is?

T: I do not.

G: How many times have you attended the ball?

T: This year is my first year

G: How many times have you attended?

C: Last year was my first year

G: I rest my case, and your saying, “What the hell is that.”

G: That’s Getmutlichkeit

Wife: Don’t forget to talk about the Kaiser

G: This is the ball. If there is one word to describe the Viennese Ball UW- Eau Claire. It’s this! And I don’t think that is present today. I think the alumni carry back in, bring it t the ball a sense of umm of ownership. Umm here, here’s the Viennese ball through the students which I had. What I see happ-. Yeah thank you for the tip.

Wife: Ok, I’ll see you later

G: Look lovely after your hair appointment.

Wife: I’ll try

G: Umm I believe that these students today come here largely because it is their annual
reunion, that’s what the Viennese ball provides them. They come together ahh with the idea of…of..of friendship love and celebrate their experience together. Their pretty loyal about doing this. I mean these ah these students here, a number of these guys are from Milwaukee, they come here, so its um an expense for them as well to do that. Getmutlichkeit is the general feeling towards everything Austrian. Ummm How the spree de cord we would say in the United States.

T: Ok

G: But, Getmutlichkeit is the umm the sense and aura of everything enjoyable in Austrian style lets say. I knew you would have a question bout what that was, I wanted to see what that was, I-it doesn’t surprise me in the least that, that you gentleman don’t have a identification with this because it’s, it’s…ahh… I don’t..i’m not sure it’s there. It’s there for them.


G: That’s why they’re back.

T: Okay

G: They come back for friendship and Getmutlichkeit. That which they have celebrated
together for a long time. Now understand this is not just the old guy talking. I understand change and they are. But, It’s the.. the sense and aura that was, is different today and that’s to be expected I think as you go forward. Umm Before my wife left she mentioned a gentleman that was a big part of the Getmutlichkeit. Umm, um first of all, in Austrian time if we were back in the classical period, the Kaiser would come to the ball. Franz Joseph Kaiser. He was sort of the leader of the country, the emperor. We had someone like that. Bruce, what was his last name, he past away several years ago.
Any ways he was very near and dear to the ball. He would come very year. And he dressed up as Franz Joseph. I mean balding, white hair, mutton chops, and he carried around a handful of roses all night long, and giving them to his favorite ladies. Taking pictures, that sort of think, I mean he exemplified the spirit of Viennese Ball, Getmutlichkeit. He was um, he was um, a great friend, a associate of, of um, Ada Bors, He was so enamored with Viennese Ball UW Eau Claire that he started his own Viennese Ball in Minneapolis. So it is this ball in Minneapolis is a spin off of UW Eau Claire Viennese Ball. Now There’s a compliment. He called it the emperors ball. And I.. Bruce’s lasts name?


Wife: Bruce Larson

G: Bruce Larson, that’s important. You’d want to know that. And he was more than him giving lift service to this. He would provide scholarships to a number of students here on campus, initially to statesmen. He formed what was called the noble statesmen award. I and of the voice faculty members basically made a decision each year, there were 2 Nobel Statesman. One went to an entering statesmen who would have been in their freshmen year in the program, and to a senior who was leaving. To honor both students as they come to the program. So there were given the noble statesmen award, they got a lapel pin, Austrian lapel pin that they wore. To wear to the ball every year there after, and scholarship came their way. That wasn’t just the statesmen. He with Ada Bors he served a scholarship programs for a host of things in the department. His emperor’s ball in Minneapolis was to the nines. I mean he was spending boku bucks. He had this very interesting building in Minneapolis. He had special chocolates made, brought in different groups who.. he always was going to bring in the statesmen he tells me but never got it done. He had choir groups from Minneapolis that sang at the ball, same deal orchestra played all the time, choir sang in the opening dance. So Bruce is really enamored with this, he was a great, great friend of, artistic friend of the ball. Spun off a
number of wonderful things including scholarships for our students.

T: Um, so, I guess what would be your biggest, both achievement and biggest frustration with the ball?

G: Well, I guess I never looked at myself from that standpoint. The Viennese Ball was
something the Statesmen looked forward to. They had a lot of interest in it. The gentleman on the lighter side would call it “Babefest.”

T: That’s funny

G: Just because it was a beautiful evening for everyone. Preparing singers some talented, some not as gifted to do that much German every year, hammering that in their head was always a challenge. Trying to maintain that standard. I looked at, this is through having worked with Ada Bors, I looked at my responsibility as presenting the statesmen as, can you the statesmen, can we keep the Austrian culture alive in the ball. Now don’t fell that I’m saying that I am a one person cause, that’s simply not true. The orchestra is in the Austrian school all day long. I mean, oh you asked my about pieces. “The Blue Danube”, “Viene Viene duo line”, or “Vienna City of Dream.” We would do that every year. We also tried to hook up with a number of artists. We performed a number of paces with voice faculty members, solos or duets would come in. Eventually we named a number of students to sing solos. “Vien Viene Duo Line” has a big solo in it and it went to a number of the students here at the university. I think, um, probably I would say, what I attempted to do through others, to decide how that happened was to try to keep the sense of the Austrian Culture and Gemutlichkeit alive in the ball.


T: Okay, so what would you say is like favorite personal memory of the ball? Do you have any fun personal stories or anything like that?

G: um, I would say my favorite part of the ball during the years that he was with us was the years with Bruce Larson. He was such a special, unique person that relationship musically really spun into many wonderful programs, scholarships, and things for our students. So, that was very rewarding to see his identification with our work. Something he really liked and um, we went to Minneapolis on tour often times. Bruce had a little restaurant, we would eat at the restaurant with him. He was always someone the gentlemen really loved to be around.

T: Awesome, so what, what does the V-Ball mean to music program at UW-Eau Claire?

G: Well, again I couldn’t answer that today for those faculty members. I… in the students I worked with, I think it was a great musical expression, I mean where else does this happen? For a week and the weekend to have the opportunity to leave the mundane to the side and go to here. It’s just, it’s different. That sense of commaradity around music and Getmutlichkeit made for a very, a memorable experience for members and myself.T: Okay, um, I guess, I should. It’s kind of an off the cuff question. Are you part German or


T: So yeah, that little bit. I just wanted to throw that in their.

G: Yes, very German

T: Awesome, so what improvements should be made to the ball in the coming years?


G: Well probably the most notable, most physical improvement to the ball was the building of the new Davies Center. My goodness there’s so much more space and room to do things. That’s important, I do talk with people that served previously on the V-Ball committee, I guess I would, I don’t even know who is charge of it anymore. Karen Stuber now is gone and, so, Ada Bors, Beverly Sal, and Karen Stuber and I don’t remember who this person is. I do hear, I guess I would suggest to the Viennese Ball committee, whoever this is, to keep, um keep community members, and I’m not asking for myself. Keep community members involved in the ongoing mission of the Ball. I think that many things can grow from that the involvement of community members in the Viennese Ball can spawn other things, other artistic ideas, scholarship moneys etc, etc. The students themselves aren’t going to produce this though there is still a large student attendance, which is great. But in order to generate money and large scholarship dollars, we need more involvement from adults, business in the community etc. So I hope that they keep an eye on that.

T: So what do you think the impact of the Statesmen and other groups you have led have had on the Viennese Ball? I mean, obviously you guys were huge contributors, the ball couldn’t have happened without you.

G: Yeah I think there was a coming together at the opening of the ball, it was like the annual meeting of the Viennese Ball, I sort of looked at it that way, so the only time of the evening where you have people sitting down for an hour after dinner to talk about, to talk and hear the music. I mean the opening ceremony included lots of things it wasn’t just of course singing. There was a presentation of scholarships and awards. The scholarships are not just in music. There are scholarships for students that are studying abroad, that’s significant that those dollars came from there. I know Bruce, Bruce Larson was participating in generating dollars for that. Um so obviously the musical presence and the look of 65-70 men in tuxes, I know I used to hear Ada talking about that, she really liked the idea that these number of men came to the ball in tuxes really just lifted the image, the feeling of the ball each year.

T: Awesome, I only have one more question for you, and that is, I guess is there anything that we didn’t ask you that you would want to share about the ball? That you want to get on the record?

G: Sure, why don’t you sing?

T: I don’t think you want that, I’ve hadn’t had very much practice.

G: Uh no, I think we have covered the gambit pretty much very well. I think that, I know that probably the students having taught for 25 years, see it something, somewhat insularly to them, it’s their Viennese Ball, when it should be this Viennese Ball. I just hope the planning committee, which involves students as well. Will keep and eye on that, on the horizon, of what is capable artistically here. As far as the music goes, that they might just continue to focus on the Austrian School. That’s why it is there. For a moment in time that song that music. I mean it’s like the dwarf cappella. If you’ve seen the dwarf cappella, they have a great following. It’s an oom pa pa band. They play all night long, they have been there a long time, I mean if that band was to leave the, the polka, polka band, the dwarf cappella were to leave, I mean it’s like to pums. That’s where the oom pa pa, the polkas are. That’s the beauty of the Viennese Ball, you get that lighter side, you get the formal music from the salon concerts, you get the orchestra doing the dancing, and you get Jazz one takes it to the contemporary American Jazz one. There is just a wonderful cornucopia of music at the Ball.

T: Awesome, well thank you very much.

G: Thank you

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