Margaret and Jack O'Farrell Director of Jazz Award established through donor support

| Emily Wermund

Through a significant financial commitment in support of the UW-Eau Claire jazz program, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation and department of music and theatre arts are proud to announce the establishment of the Margaret and Jack O’Farrell Director of Jazz Fund. The first recipient of the designation is Bob Baca, professor of music and director of jazz at UW-Eau Claire. 

The fund recognizes the UW-Eau Claire director of jazz as a leader among the music faculty and an integral member in contributing to the overall educational experience of students participating in jazz. The support is made possible through generous annual gifts and an estate endowment from Milton and Pegeen Snoeyenbos in memory of her parents, Jack and Margaret O’Farrell.

For many years, Milt and Pegeen Snoeyenbos have made generous annual gifts in support of UW-Eau Claire’s jazz program, becoming the largest single donors in the program’s history. In addition to their annual gifts, the Snoeyenboses have made a significant estate gift plan that will endow major aspects of the UW-Eau Claire jazz program. The Margaret and Jack O’Farrell Jazz Advancement Fund and the newly established Margaret and Jack O’Farrell Director of Jazz Fund honor Peg's parents, Jack and Margaret O'Farrell, both local musicians who made significant contributions to the Eau Claire jazz scene.

“My parents remained young at heart throughout their lives,” Peg says. “They shared a great enthusiasm for young people and good music. Both would be enormously proud of what the UW-Eau Claire jazz program has done to keep alive the jazz of their youth. They would be delighted to see this very American musical form at the forefront of the excellent music scene in the Chippewa Valley.”

Jack was a big-band musician who played clarinet and saxophone in bands throughout the Great Lakes region from the late 1920s until his military service in World War II. After the war, Jack was an active figure on the Eau Claire music scene. He was instrumental in forming the Eau Claire Barbershoppers' Chorus, with the chapter name Diplomats of Harmony. He also established the Eau Claire chapter of the Sweet Adelines women's chorus. For many years Jack performed with the George King Trio at clubs and restaurants around the Eau Claire area, and for several years was choir director at Christ Church Cathedral. In later years he had a two-hour Sunday jazz program, called the "Big Band Bash" on WBIZ radio.

Margaret, an accomplished pianist, loved to play music from the Romantic era, but her real interest was in improvisation. As a young woman, she turned down an opportunity to go to Europe to study improvisational piano and rejected an opportunity for a Hollywood screen test which had been arranged by one of her sisters. For a long time, she belonged to the Sweet Adelines, but preferred to play the piano in private.

Peg and Milt both attended UW-Eau Claire. Peg is a 1966 English alumna, and has written five books plus numerous short stories and articles. Milt graduated from the University of Minnesota with his Ph.D. in 1974 and taught philosophy at Georgia State University. He has over 90 publications, mainly in philosophy of art and organizational ethics, and had a business ethics consulting practice.

The Margaret and Jack O’Farrell Jazz Advancement Fund will be used to support a variety of student-centered efforts in the jazz area. Support will go toward student travel, lessons with professional jazz musicians, professional development, hosting guest artists on campus, and used to support jazz-specific instruction.

In recognition of the Snoeyenboses' significant generosity, the person holding the director of jazz title would be known as the Margaret and Jack O’Farrell Director of Jazz. This title and additional funding awarded to the director of jazz will further cement the national reputation of the program and support the department of music and theatre arts in its recruitment and retention of faculty members. 

“It is humbling to witness the generous support that the department has received by Milt and Peg Snoeyenbos,” says Dr. Gretchen Peters, professor and chair of the music and theatre arts department. “Their contributions over the years have created transformational experiences for our students. Their support of the jazz area, which has a long and distinguished history, and of Bob Baca, who is a truly dedicated and respected faculty member, will help assure its ongoing success in the future.”  

Photo caption: Through a significant gift in support of the UW-Eau Claire jazz program, the Margaret and Jack O'Farrell Director of Jazz Award has been established and awarded to Bob Baca, professor of music and director of jazz.