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Past Guest Artists

The first jazz ensemble at UW-Eau Claire (called the "Stage Band") was started in 1962 by students John and Jim Buchholz and Larry McCaghy. The head of the Music Department, Bob Gantner, gave the students $400 to buy music for this new group. It wasn't until 1964 which the band got its first faculty director, Joe Casey, who led the group and started the first Eau Claire Jazz Festival in 1967. 

Mr. Casey ran the festival for a few years until Dominic Spera got hired as the UW-Eau Claire Jazz Program Director in 1968. Mr. Spera, along with Ron Keezer, the university's percussion professor and Jazz II director, brought the jazz program and festival to new heights. The program was cited by Down Beat Magazine as "a national success story” and Mr. Spera was also awarded ‘Jazz Educator of the Year’. The festival created a high school adjudication component and brought in world-renowned musicians to perform in the evening concert. 

In 1977, Mr. Spera left to teach at Indiana University, but the festival and jazz studies program was driven by the vision of Mr. Keezer. He helped pass the tradition to festival director's Jim Olcott and Henry Mautner before Robert Baca took the reigns of the program and festival in 1987. Since then, the festival has continued to grow with Mr. Baca and Mr. Keezer's vision by adding additional components like masterclasses and non-competitive elements for middle, high, and college bands. In 2013, "52nd Street" was created (renamed "Jazz Crawl" in 2020) which transforms downtown Eau Claire into a 1950s New York jazz scene with 40+ bands playing in numerous venues on Barstow St. throughout the Friday of the festival. 

Festival Director: Joe Casey

1967- Ken Bartosh

1968- Bud Brisbois, Father Wiskirken, Jim Coffin & Mel Nussbaum


Festival Director: Dominic Spera

1969- John LaPorta

1970- Clark Terry

1971- Phil Wilson & Alan Dawson

1972- David Baker, Oliver Nelson & Charles Suber

1973- Dave Pavolka, Al Cobine, Rufus Reid & Dan Haerle

1974- Gary Burton & Rich Matteson

1975- Bud Brisbois & Lou Marini, Jr.

1976- Roger Pemberton & Ed Soph

1977- Jamie Aebersold, David Baker, Charles Suber & Ray Wright


Festival Director: Jim Olcott

1978- Buddy DeFranco & Dick Shearer


Festival Director: Henry Mautner

1979- Dick Hyman & Eddie Daniels

1980- Mundell Lowe & Bill Berry

1981- Bob Wilber & Jim Pugh

1982- Joe Wilder & Dave Samuels

1983- Nick Ceroli & Plas Johnson

1984- Snooky Young & Mike Moore

1985- Ernie Watts & Ashley Alexander

1986- Bill Berry & Dave Frishberg


Festival Director: Robert Baca

1987- 20th Anniversary Celebration:

Dominic Spera, Rufus Reid, Bill Sears, Dave Pavolka John Radd & The Alumni Big Band

1988- Bill Pierce, James Williams & Rob McConnell

1989- Al Vizzutti & John Von Ohlen

1990- Matt Harris, Bill Evans & Brian Torff

1991- Jiggs Whigham, Red Rodney, Donald Harrison, Matt Harris & The Airmen of Note

1992- Conte Condoli, Ed Soph, Bob Davis, Al Cobine, Dominic Spera, Matt Harris & The Army Blues Ensemble

1993- Ira Sullivan, Matt Harris, Ted Pease, Larry Wiseman & The Air Force Falconaires

1994- David Baker, Rufus Reid, Tana/Reid Quintet (Akira Tana, Rob Schneiderman, Craig Bailey, Dan Faulk), Diana Spradling & Frank Mantooth

1995- Sammy Nestico & Geoffrey Keezer

1996- Carl Fontana, Charlie Byrd, Dominic Spera & The Airmen of Note


1997- 30th Anniversary Celebration:

Michael Brecker, Byron Stripling, Dominic Spera, & The Noteables Air Combat Command Heartland of America Band, 35th Reunion of 1962 UWEC Jazz Band

1998- Harold Mabern & Peter Erksine

1999- Slide Hampton, Ed Calle & The Air Force Heartland of America Jazz Ensemble

2000- Jon Faddis & Bill Reichenbach

2001- Ingrid Jensen, Lewis Nash & The Air Force Shades of Blue Jazz Ensemble

2002- The Dave Holland Quintet, Chris Botti, Christian McBride

2003- Wycliffe Gordon, Sam Pillifan & JAZZAX Saxophone Quartet

2004- David Berkman Quartet

2005- Byron Stripling, Maria Schneider, Jerry Bergonzi & The Noteables

2006- Lewis Nash, Brian Grivna, Nachito Herrera & Michael B. Nelson

2007- Kevin Mahogany, Stanley Jordan & Benny Green

2008- Nnenna Freelon, Benny Golson, Dave Weckl & Chris Brubeck

2009- Chris Potter, Jiggs Whigham & Kevin Washington

2010- Nicholas Payton & Kenni Holman

2011- Eric Marienthal & Bobby Sanabria

2012- Andy Martin & John Pattitucci

2013- Claudio Roditi, Geoffrey Keezer & author Michael Perry

2014- Wycliffe Gordon & Byron Stripling

2015- New York Voices, Terell Stafford & Nachito Herrera


2016- 50th Anniversary Celebration:

Jimmy Heath and Stefon Harris

2017- Doc Severinsen & Carl Allen

2018- Bob Mintzer & Bobby Sanabria

2019- Grace Kelly & New York Voices

          Thursday Night- Chris Botti Group

2020- Cancelled due to COVID-19

2021- Sue Orfield, Sean Carey, Jeremy Boettcher, Josh Gallagher

2022- Diane Schuur & Donny McCaslin

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