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Jazz I to join S. Carey on stage at Eaux Claires

| Alison Wagener

If you think the upcoming Eaux Claires music and art festival can’t get any better, think again, because UW-Eau Claire’s Jazz Ensemble I will be performing with alumnus Sean Carey. 

Yes, you heard that right. Sean Carey. Plus Jazz Ensemble I. At Eaux Claires.

Instead of presenting his usual act, Carey, who performs as solo artist S. Carey and is the drummer in Eau Claire-based indie folk band Bon Iver, has invited the Grammy-nominated jazz group to share the spotlight. Carey was a percussionist with the ensemble as a UW-Eau Claire student.

A collection of some of the best students and alumni from the ensemble will gather for the festival, performing big-band arrangements of music from Carey’s solo albums arranged by fellow UWEC graduate and award-winning composer and saxophonist Aaron Hedenstrom.

Recent UW-Eau Claire graduate Tyler Henderson is one of the alumni playing with Jazz I at the festival. He says he is more than excited to be able to collaborate with such a talented group of performers with ties to UWEC. 

“Sean is a brilliant musician and a great writer, and the fact that Aaron was able to turn his music into something that can be shared by this group of musicians is special because it really is beautiful music,” Henderson said. “The fact that we get to share that with Sean and present that sound to a huge crowd is going to be very fun.” 

Henderson first saw Jazz Ensemble I perform at Jazz Fest after transferring from UW-La Crosse in 2011, and he says it’s an experience he won’t ever forget.

“I clearly remember seeing that concert and specifically watching musicians soloing,” Henderson said. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, I really need to get there.’ It served as sort of a benchmark and a bar that I wanted to reach and then after two more semesters, I finally got there.” 

Henderson played with the ensemble as a trombonist for the rest of his UWEC career.

“I’m glad that I embraced it while I was in it because I know I’m going to look back on those memories very fondly,” Henderson said.

Senior Cody Norling is a saxophonist in Jazz I and will also be playing at Eaux Claires. He says that the chance to perform with Carey and other notable alumni comes from the tradition of excellence in Eau Claire jazz.

“Eau Claire has this tradition, this lineage of jazz students,” Norling said. “Sean Carey was a drummer in Jazz I years ago, and that’s how we got this connection — because everyone knows us in this area. It has such a rich history, and that’s where the opportunities come from.”

Curated by Eau Claire native Justin Vernon, the Eaux Claires music and art festival is quickly establishing itself as a foothold in not only the Eau Claire community, but the arts festival scene at large.

And from preparation to tear-down, UW-Eau Claire will be there every step of the way.