The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

UWEC’s ninth annual Gatsby’s Gala

Inside a night of jazz, dancing and extravagance 
Photo by Russell Teske
The UW-Eau Claire Jazz I and II ensemble performs in a filled-to-the-capacity Ojibwe Ballroom. 

UW-Eau Claire hosted its ninth annual Gatsby’s Gala on Saturday, Nov. 11 in Davies Student Center. 

The goal was to fundraise for UW-Eau Claire’s jazz studies scholarship program while promoting the culture of jazz music.  

It was a night that had achieved exactly that, complete with dancing, a makeshift casino, auctions and attendees dressing up as the rich men and flappers of the Roaring ‘20s. 

The gala also featured an appearance from the silent silver statues, who will also be at the Viennese Ball on April 5-6, 2024. 

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Jerry Kuehl, the senior vice president of sales and marketing at Northwestern Bank and an Eau Claire Jazz board member, was the largest sponsor of the event.

“It’s a way to reach out to the students at UW-Eau Claire. I think a number of us who are in management here at the bank are UW-Eau Claire graduates so we certainly have an affinity for the university and want to support it in any way we can,” Kuehl said.  

The bank provides support on multiple levels, according to Kuehl.

“Hopefully some managerial experience, maybe some insight into the community and financial support,” Kuehl said. “Being a board member I think comes with all of those items, kind of implied at some level.” 

But sponsors aren’t the only thing that’s necessary when it comes to making an event like Gatsby’s Gala come to life. There is much planning that goes into ensuring a successful gala whether it be overseeing the interns that make it possible to the organizational and logistical aspects that come with it. 

This is where Quentin Volk, executive director of Eau Claire Jazz, comes in to help make the board’s vision a reality. He said it is a celebration of the university and the city of Eau Claire coming together.

“Day of, I’m just there to take care of fires just like with all of our events,” Volk said. “It just comes down to experience, you go through it a few times and you just know what could go wrong.” 

Volk also said that instead of responding to any possible flare-ups, he and his team predicted any possible outliers or outcomes, being proactive and not reactive. 

“The day of, and throughout the night, myself and a few of the interns are just kind of sitting there on the sidelines, predicting what the next step is going to be,” Volk said. “Instead of having to respond to an issue, you’re being proactive to it and taking care of it before it does come at you.”

The night of Gatsby’s Gala demonstrates whether or not these efforts bear any fruit, and whether or not they are validated by the approval of the numerous attendees.  

Sophina Bebyl, a second-year music student, attended the event in support of her many friends in the jazz band while dressed as Daisy Buchanan with respect to the novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“I just love the era and dressing up,” she said. “The energy is just incredible, so lively, so fun.  I’ve seen them (the band) a long time and they’re incredible, I see them every time I go.”

Meanwhile, Cole Christenson, the boyfriend of one of the music students, said he is impressed with the event, with it being his first.  

“I like the music so far, it’s been really nice to listen to the old classic jazz, I like the orchestra on stage,” he said.  “When I first heard about it, I thought it was just going to be college kids, but I’ve seen people from 80-plus to college kids. I really like the (age) ranges and the emotions here.”

However, it isn’t Gatsby’s Gala without UW-Eau Claire’s Jazz I and II ensembles making it all possible. 

Ethan Chaffee, a second-year music performance major on trumpet, said the band had high morale going into the gala.  

“We got all of our music a day before the gala. So we had to put together about 15 songs with one rehearsal which was last night Friday,” Chaffee said. “So we were in this room for about five hours rehearsing this music.

Though it was difficult, this pressure did not affect the band in the slightest according to Chaffee. 

“It was a lot at first, but as soon as we showed up today, it was very high energy and we were all very excited, and I think we did a very great job,” Chaffee said.

Gatsby’s Gala ended with a performance of Fergie’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got),” to the joy and applause of nearly everyone in attendance. 

The culmination of donations, planning and hard work on behalf of all those involved. 

One can only look forward to the 10th Gatsby’s Gala and what the UW-Eau Claire Jazz ensembles have in store for it. 

Teske can be reached at [email protected].

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