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30 Years of Innocence

Editor's note: The following story about the Innocent Men, a UW-Eau Claire a cappella group, appeared in the April 29 issue of Volume One magazine and is reprinted with permission.

By Katy Macek, photo by Andrea Paulseth

When UW-Eau Claire's director of choral activities Gary Schwartzhoff came to the university in 1991, the a cappella group Innocent Men had disbanded temporarily due to disagreements between the then-director of choral activities and the students' ideas about which way the group should go.

Schwartzhoff wanted to reinstate the group, and 24 years later the Innocent Men are celebrating their 30th anniversary with an anniversary concert on May 9.

The selection of music the Innocent Men perform is one reason Schwartzhoff said he thinks the group has remained such a popular part of the music community at Eau Claire.

"The ensemble's been a reflection of pop culture during the era which those members participated in the Innocent Men," Schwartzhoff said. "That is to say the music is representative of that time period. That's still the case now."

The Innocent Men is an a cappella group made up of traditionally seven men, though this semester there are only six. All are members of the male chorus group The Singing Statesmen, both of which require an audition to join.

Each season brings its own mix of members to the group, and Schwartzhoff has seen quite a few in his time.

This year, he said he thinks the group has a good mix of students majoring in music but also in other departments, such as business and finance, which balances the group.

"I think the distribution of labor within the ensemble is as balanced as I've seen it in the years that I have been here," he said. "Everyone has a stake and part, if you would, in making the ensemble and their events successful."

Jeremy Steinmetz, junior business administration and music double major, is in his fourth semester with the Innocent Men and also plays the role of business manager for the group.

Steinmetz said he is looking forward to this concert for various reasons, including singing in the Ojibwe Ballroom in Davies Center, a new venue not only for the Innocent Men, but for any a cappella group. Previous performances have been in Schofield Auditorium.

Many alumni of the group will be returning for the concert and even singing several songs with the current members.

"Those are two of the things," he said. "I'm going to leave the rest for people to come to the concert and find but there's definitely some things that people will want to come and see at the show."

Steinmetz also said they will be debuting their first EP, which they began recording in December and will be sold at the concert.

"All of the kinks have been worked out and we got it done," he said. "The first people who will be able to purchase it will be at the concert, and we're super excited for people to hear it."

The Innocent Men's 30-year anniversary concert and EP release of Caught Red Handed is at 7:30 p.m. May 9 in the Ojibwe Room in Davies Center at UW-Eau Claire.