Donation of charts and recordings gets fans and friends all jazzed up
Ron Keezer happened upon a rare and extensive music collection and knew its value immediately — priceless. The UW-Eau Claire associate professor emeritus of music, now a music publisher, connected with an Arlington, Texas-area big band leader during a search for works by a specific composer. The two found that they had much in common: a love for jazz, a lifetime of performing and a desire to share their favorite art form with others.
Edward “Pete” Petersen had amassed thousands of records and charts by some of the greatest names in jazz. Many of them were autographed. His collection included Count Basie, Sammy Nestico, Woody Herman, Glenn Miller, Neil Hefti and other legendary composers and musicians. Many of the works are out of circulation and, if they remain, are likely in the hands of collectors or long forgotten in an attic somewhere.
Petersen had been working on an arrangement to sell the library to the University of Cologne, Germany. Things didn’t work out, but the potential to preserve music that could be lost forever and use it as a teaching tool intrigued Petersen. When Keezer began to talk about the music scene in Eau Claire and the history of talent associated with the UW-Eau Claire jazz studies program, Petersen made the offer to sell his collection once again.
“Ron’s enthusiasm was difficult to ignore,” said Petersen, who was impressed after listening to CDs recorded by the university’s jazz ensembles. He was so sure the music would be cared for and appreciated that he reduced his asking price, offering to donate the remainder of the collection’s value to UW-Eau Claire.
Keezer sprang into action, calling on friends and area musicians to help him secure the treasure trove on behalf of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. Enough funds were raised in a matter of weeks. But Keezer had even more excitement in the works. He requested that the collection be named in honor of his good friend and fellow musician, John Buchholz, UW-Eau Claire professor emeritus of English. The two began teaching at the university in 1969, were very active in the school’s jazz ensembles, performed together in area bands over the years and retired in 2001.
Buchholz, who was among the founding members of the university’s jazz ensemble in 1962, was an enthusiastic supporter of jazz studies for decades, attending concerts and festivals, transporting visiting clinicians, teaching students and loaning out his instruments — which include saxophones, basses, flutes, clarinets, drums, a flugelhorn and a homemade didgeridoo.
“I think it’s a profound way to honor John for all the things he’s done for the music department,” said Keezer, who managed to keep his plans a secret from Buchholz. “He’s been a great friend to all of us.”
The surprise was revealed during a celebration July 21 when the John L. Buchholz Jazz Library was officially dedicated. Buchholz, who was joined by his family, was visibly moved by the honor. About 165 donors, friends and members of the campus community were in attendance, including Jiggs Whigham, internationally acclaimed trombonist and professor of music at the University of Cologne, Germany. It was Whigham who was working to acquire Petersen’s collection for his department.
“The infrastructure wasn’t quite ready for it,” said Whigham, who performed at the event with Keezer and other alumni and music faculty. “This is fantastic. Art and music are not luxuries. They are necessities.”
Petersen also was on campus to celebrate and meet the guardians and curators of his collection.
“This is the art form of this country,” he said. “It needs to live. That’s what’s going to happen here, and I’m really excited about it.”
The collection will be housed in McIntyre Library’s special collections and archives department. Additional fundraising continues for support of the preservation and digitizing of the collection so it can be accessible to jazz students and educators worldwide.
Supporting the John L. Buchholz Jazz Library
More information about supporting the John L. Buchholz Jazz Library can be found on the Foundation website.