Stacks of Jazz

$200,000 'jazz library' finds home at UW-Eau Claire

Emily Anderson, photos by Bill Hoepner

UWEC’s new jazz library contains over 1,000 LP recordings and almost as many musical charts.
UWEC’s new jazz library contains over 1,000 LP recordings and almost as many musical charts.

A part of jazz history has found its way to the UW–Eau Claire. UWEC has recently acquired a collection of jazz recordings and charts valued at over $200,000. This collection is one of the largest in the world and contains many one-of-a-kind pieces. Owning such a vast and unique collection is, according to Music and Theatre Arts department chair Vanissa Murphy, “an amazing educational opportunity.” Students and faculty can listen to tracks that are not available anywhere else. The best part of this collection, however, is that some of the recordings match the various scores and charts. This means that musicians can play from the score and use the recording as a guide, or vice versa. Artists featured in this collection include Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, Glenn Miller, Benn Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey.

Up until the university purchased it, the collection had been owned by Edward Petersen of Arlington, TX. Petersen, a big band leader, had developed the collection, which contains over 1,000 LP recordings and almost as many musical charts, over several decades. Former UWEC professor of music Ron Keezer discovered the collection in April 2011 when he called Petersen to inquire about the unpublished music of California musician Don Schamber. Petersen informed Keezer about his enormous collection and that he had been looking to sell it for a few years. Although valued at over $200,000, after hearing all about UWEC’s successful jazz program, Petersen generously offered to sell it to Keezer and the university for only $75,000. Keezer worked with the UWEC Foundation in order to raise the money. Between donations from alumni and the L.E. Phillips Family Foundation, Keezer was able to get the money in only nine weeks. 

The collection will be kept in the Special Collections and Archives section of the McIntyre Library at UWEC and is dedicated, by request of Keezer, to Dr. John L. Buchholz, a friend and fellow jazz enthusiast and UWEC professor. The two have known each other since 1957 when they were students at UWEC and performed together in various combos and the university’s first jazz ensembles in the early 1960s. Keezer chose to dedicate the collection to Buchholz because of his ongoing contributions to the university’s jazz program – first as a student, and now as a professor and community member. 

The university held a surprise celebration in honor of both Dr. Buchholz and the acquisition on July 21 in the Haas Fine Arts Center. Among those who attended the event were Vanissa Murphy, Bob Baca, director of Jazz Studies, Bruce Hering and Dennis Luginbill, jazz directors from North and Memorial High Schools, respectively, and, of course, Ron Keezer.

In the future, the university hopes to continue raising funds to both expand and preserve the collection. There are also hopes of digitalizing the recordings so more people can have access to this extraordinary piece of musical history.