Thirty years of music, memories and a pair of shoes

A cappella group The Innocent Men celebrates 30 anniversary this weekend

The current members of The Innocent Men, an a cappella group celebrating their 30th anniversary with a special anniversary concert this weekend.


The current members of The Innocent Men, an a cappella group celebrating their 30th anniversary with a special anniversary concert this weekend.

Story by Katy Macek, Currents Editor

This Saturday, a group of men will be honoring an a cappella group started 30 years before them as they don their red Converse and sing their hearts out.

The Innocent Men, an a cappella group made up of six men who are also in The Singing Statesmen, are celebrating the group’s 30 anniversary this weekend, and they are inviting any and all previous Innocent Men before them to join in the festivities, red Converse and all.

Kaynen Harris, junior, said he wanted to join the Innocent Men after watching the group performance his freshman year because he really liked the energy they gave off while performing, and looked up to them as leaders in The Singing Statesmen.

Now in his fourth semester with the group, he said one thing he really enjoys is its ability to be professional and still have a good time.

“It was kind of surreal getting into the group because it wasn’t really what I expected it to be,” he said. “The guys were really hard working and we did a lot, but I think I thought it was going to be more intensive than it actually was. You don’t lose the fun of it.”

Gary Schwartzhoff, director of choral activities at UW-Eau Claire, has been with the group since he came to the university 24 years ago and said he has seen a lot of changes, but one thing has remained the same.

“The Innocent Men are reflective of pop and country music of the day, and that’s still the case now,” he said.  “They do some collages or mashes of music that might represent multiple decades, but primarily this has been the music that attracts them, focuses them, the audience comes to hear this.”

However, in terms of group members, Schwartzhoff said this semester has seen a good mix of not only music majors, but also those from departments like business and finance.

“I think the distribution of labor within the ensemble is as balanced as I’ve seen it in the years that I have been here,” he said. “That’s healthy, everyone has a stake and part, if you would, in making the ensemble and their events successful.”

Matt Laudenbach, junior music major has been with the group for three semesters and said he is really appreciative of the friendships he has made.

WEB_IMenAlbum“All the guys in the group are some of my best friends so rehearsals are always a blast,” he said. “It’s just really nice to be able to do something that we all love, to make music, and still have a lot of fun with it.”

Laudenbach said they will be releasing their first EP, “Caught Red Handed,” which they recorded in three 10-hour days this winter.

While they are used to being around each other the majority of the time, he said recording the album in three days was an entirely new experience for the group.

“We’re used to spending a lot of time together, but spending 10 hours straight we’re not really used to,” he said. “But it was a lot of fun, a lot of inside jokes came from that.”

Since their beginning in 1985, The Innocent Men have recorded just two other albums; “Until Proven Guilty” in 2007 and “The Red Album” in 2011.

There are many reasons this concert is different from their others, but Harris said he’s looking forward to the alumni returning to the stage. They have invited all previous members of the group and are hoping for a large turnout.

“I’ll be able to see some of those guys that I first saw when I was looking up to them, as well as seeing people that inspired them before me,” he said. “It’ll be cool to see all of the different generations.”

In addition to the alumni, junior Jeremy Steinmetz said there are several other exciting things unique to this concert.

Steinmetz, who is in his fourth semester with the Innocent Men and second semester as their business manager, said the location of the concert in Ojibwe ballroom is new not only for them but for all a cappella groups, which are usually located in Schofield Auditorium.

However, he assured there will be more in store for the audience than just those.

“Those are two of the things,” he said. “I’m going to leave the rest for people to come to the concert and find but there’s definitely some things that people will want to come and see at the show.”

The anniversary concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Ojibwe ballroom. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the service center or at the door.