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Jazz Festival features alumni,
provides student opportunities

RELEASED: April 8, 2011

View a WEAU-TV 13 interview with Eau Claire Jazz Festival organizers Patty Horecki, executive director of Eau Claire Jazz Inc., and Bob Baca, the organization's artistic director and UW-Eau Claire professor of music:
> Go to WEAU's website to view Part 2 of the interview.

EAU CLAIRE — The 44th annual Eau Claire Jazz Festival, which kicked off March 28 and has included musical events throughout the Chippewa Valley, reaches its finale this weekend with concerts featuring jazz notables Eric Marienthal, Bobby Sanabria and the Hornheads as well as UW-Eau Claire jazz students and alumni.

UW-Eau Claire alumni returning to perform include Matt Pivec '00, Jason Gillette '96, Tom Luer '97, Corey Cunningham '09, Chris Gumz '98, Matt Mealey '99, Jeff Walk '02, Andy Neesly '03, Kyle Siegrist '10, Joe Hartson '05, Eric Songer '97, Vincent Rose '03 and Adam Braatz '08. The UW-Eau Claire Jazz Alumni Band concert will be held at 4:30 p.m. April 9 in Zorn Arena. See the festival calendar of events for specifics on other performances and times.

UW-Eau Claire has been a hub for award-winning jazz for decades and is known for having one of the longest-running jazz festivals in the nation, said Eau Claire Jazz Inc. communications director Martha Seroogy. The evolution of the Eau Claire Jazz Festival from a campus-based educational gathering to a 14-day communitywide festival has provided learning and leadership opportunities for hundreds of UW-Eau Claire students each year, Seroogy said.

The partnership between the nonprofit Eau Claire Jazz Inc., formed in 2008, and UW-Eau Claire includes strong student involvement and provides professional experiences for students from many majors, Seroogy said.

UW-Eau Claire students working with the festival include 40 interns, 10 to 15 volunteers through the UW-Eau Claire Center for Service-Learning and approximately 150 volunteers through the jazz studies area of the music and theatre arts department. Some students stay on to work in the Eau Claire Jazz Inc. office year-round.

Eau Claire Jazz Inc. could not do its job without student involvement, said Seroogy, a 2009 UW-Eau Claire mass communication graduate who formerly assisted with the festival as a student intern. Seroogy was involved during her sophomore through senior years, acting as assistant director and later festival director. Her job was to coordinate a team of students, which numbered up to 150 during the festival, to run the event.

"It prepared me for my current role in many ways," Seroogy said. "I learned how to manage people, to delegate and plan. I believe the experience was the best possible choice I could have made for an internship."

Festival executive director Patty Horecki spearheaded the festival's expansion and incorporation in 2008. Horecki said she's "thrilled with the number of students who have come on board and the amount of work they have eagerly taken on."

"It's really a win-win situation," Horecki said. "We have so many motivated students in leadership roles helping us coordinate one of the largest festivals in the nation. It's not just filing paperwork and answering phones. They come out of this with real-world, business experience."

UW-Eau Claire's music students also benefit from the festival's opportunities for jazz performance, and its clinics and master classes allow them to expand their repertoire and learn from the best, said Robert Baca, director of jazz studies at UW-Eau Claire and Eau Claire Jazz Inc. artistic director.

Approximately 110 UW-Eau Claire students enroll in jazz-related courses each year, Baca said. Classes are offered in jazz history, jazz improvisation, jazz arranging and jazz pedagogy. While there is no official jazz major at UW-Eau Claire, Baca, with strong student involvement, has guided the development of a hands-on learning model that mirrors what students will experience as professional jazz musicians. Through that model, which is supplemental to the music program's classroom experiences, students can initiate opportunities to perform and mentor each other.

"Our students are classically trained musicians who interpret the jazz style," Baca said.

The model has proved successful, Baca said. UW-Eau Claire's Jazz Ensemble I is recognized as one of the premier jazz ensembles in the United States and was recently named a Down Beat Award winner for "Best College Big Band," a recognition it has received six times. The group has recorded a CD each year for the past decade, with two ("Jazz in Clear Water — Harpoon" and "Jazz in Clear Water — Things to Come") nominated for Grammy awards. The ensemble's newest offering, "Jazz in Clearwater — A Gentleman Named John," is being introduced at the festival.

A former Jazz Ensemble I member, Tom Luer, is returning to Eau Claire for the festival for the third year in a row. The tenor saxophonist will adjudicate for two days and perform with the alumni band. Luer is now a professional freelance musician in Los Angeles, performing many styles of music, including jazz, classical, pop, and rhythm and blues.

"The jazz studies area was the primary reason I attended UW-Eau Claire," Luer said. "But I believe the classical training I received provided me with fundamental and advanced skills on my instrument, which aided in my ability to continue my studies in jazz and improvisation."

Luer is excited to return to his alma mater and reconnect with faculty and fellow alumni.

"It makes me feel like a part of a larger community of music," Luer said.

More information about the remaining Eau Claire Jazz Festival events can be found online.

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RD/JP/AH

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