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Jazz students find summer opportunities to perform, improve

| Judy Berthiaume

Think life slows down in the summer for UW-Eau Claire’s talented — and nationally recognized — jazz musicians?

Not so much.

“Music is a passion for our jazz students and for many it’s their future career,” says Robert Baca, director of the jazz studies program. “Our students are always looking for new opportunities to perform, to learn and to connect with other talented musicians.”

Not surprisingly, Blugolds are in high demand during the summer, Baca says.

Whether it’s a one-night show at an Eau Claire venue, a weeks-long stint in the orchestra pit of a Twin Cities theater or a months-long gig playing at Disney, many Blugolds are spending the summer months performing as they hone their skills and build their resumes, Baca says.

Here is a small sampling of what UW-Eau Claire’s jazz musicians are up to this summer:

  • Alex Karye, Farmington, Minnesota, is one of four trombonists selected to play in the Disney All American Band in Anaheim, California. He will play weekly jazz concerts with a famous guest artist. Given the notoriety of this ensemble, his summer gig also will help him build important connections within the music industry, including with Los Angeles studio musicians.
  • Trumpet player Michael St. Ores, Rosemount, Minnesota, is the drum major for the Carolina Crown Drum and Class 1 Bugle Corps, one of the biggest corps in the country. It’s the first time a Blugold has held this position.
  • Cam Becker, a bass trombonist from Lakeville, Minnesota, will perform as a member of the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.
  • Connor Pietrzak, Sherwood, will play at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre in Grand Lake, Colorado, this summer.
  • Dawson Redenius, Fort Atkinson; Jan Hora, Cedarburg; and Ethan Richmond, Eau Claire, are playing with “Kids from Wisconsin” this summer.
  • Rice Lake native Megan Hutera, trumpet, is the first woman member and soloist with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps.
  • Breanna DeNure, Beloit, a saxophonist who served as the communications manager for Eau Claire Jazz Inc., will work for the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra this summer.
  • Quentin Volk, trumpet, is returning to campus after finishing a national Broadway tour with “Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” A native of Loveland, Colorado, he will complete his undergraduate degree next year.

Longreen, Karye, Pietrzak and Becker all were members of UW-Eau Claire’s 2017-18 Jazz Ensemble I, which won a prestigious DownBeat Award this spring in the category of “outstanding performance.” It was the second consecutive year the ensemble received a DownBeat Award, and the eighth time ever that the ensemble earned a DownBeat honor.

“Our students are extraordinarily talented and very ambitious so it’s exciting to see all the different opportunities they are finding,” Baca says of his students’ summer pursuits. “They understand that excellence and hard work bring many opportunities. They also know they need to be prepared to make the most of every one of those experiences.”

Not to be outdone by their students, Baca and Dr. Phil Ostrander, a member of UW-Eau Claire’s trombone faculty, also have busy summer schedules, including playing for a Broadway show at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis from June 5-10.