Jazz studies alumnus Tom Luer makes it big in L.A.

The term “portfolio musician” is often used to describe a musician with a diverse set of skills, styles and performance accolades. A portfolio musician usually builds a career by not just performing but usually also by teaching, composing and arranging. They typically have an area of expertise but can always get the job done regardless of what it requires. Los Angeles saxophonist and UWEC alumnus Tom Luer is a prime example of a portfolio musician.

Luer has performed with renowned artists and groups such as Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Poncho Sanchez and Queen Latifah. He has also been on the faculties of several respected institutions such as the University of North Texas and Texas Christian University. In 2011 he released his first album, "Project Popular." Currently he is on the faculties of Cal Poly Pomona and the Los Angeles School of Music. He freelances regularly in Los Angeles and perhaps most notably is a member of the recently Grammy-nominated ensemble MONKestra.

Since graduating from UWEC in 1997, Luer has maintained a close relationship with the university's jazz studies area. He has been a guest artist at the annual Eau Claire Jazz Festival for several years and in 2016 he returned to campus during UW-Eau Claire's Centennial Celebration to perform in the premiere of the piece “Confluent Reflections,” composed by Kyle Newmaster and also featuring San Francisco principal bassist Scott Pingle, both of whom are UWEC alumni. They will perform the piece again Dec. 22 with UWEC's Jazz Ensemble I at The Midwest Clinic in Chicago.

“Kyle, Scott, and I were in school together and were really good friends. To be included on a project like this with them was very meaningful for me,” Luer said. 

Luer still has fond memories of UW-Eau Claire and the lessons he learned while in school. He says the intense amount of performance opportunities with Jazz I and sometimes limited rehearsal time helped him prepare for how it is done in the real world. He also says UW-Eau Claire helped prepare him to be a better person and entrepreneur.

“Whether it’s simply ‘kill ‘em with kindness’ or … some of the other things I was taught by the great professors there.... A lot of the work I’ve done, especially here in Los Angeles, has been just as much based on my reputation as being easy to work with and being prepared as it has someone who can get up and play the most burning solo.”

— Cam Becker, fall 2017