Roots of Jazz in Waupaca

The series includes live music, an interactive exhibition, a film, talks

By Robert Cloud


A silent auction will be held for the art of Doris Weed during Roots of Jazz in Waupaca.

Roots of Jazz will present a special series of live performances, talks, paintings, a play and a film from April 25 through May 9.

Programs will include African percussion, ragtime piano, blues and Wisconsin jazz.

Winchester Academy, the Waupaca Area Public Library, and the Waupaca Historical Society collaborated on the series.

The Roots of Jazz in Waupaca

The series opens with “A Durable Dane: The Eddy Hanson Story” at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 25, on the lower level of the Waupaca Area Public Library.

Written and narrated by Patrick Phair with Linda Harmon on piano and Barb Laedtke consulting, the program tells the life story and features the music of Waupaca native Eddy Hanson.

Born in 1893, Ethwell Hanson, who preferred to be called Eddy, began piano lessons at the age of 8. He attended Waupaca High School where he played saxophone and organ at local movie theaters.

During World War I, Hanson joined the United States Navy and was assigned to accompany silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks as they toured the country promoting war bonds.

Although he moved to Chicago, Hanson remained connected to Waupaca, performing on the organ at the opening ceremonies of the Palace Opera House in 1920.

Throughout the 1920s, Hanson performed on radio, accompanied silent films on the organ, and sold his music to piano recordings.

His songs include ‘Rattlesnake Rag’, Desertland ‘Oriental Fox Trot’ and ‘The Wisconsin Waltz’, among many others.

He died in 1986 at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King.

The performance is free.

Library exhibition

Following Phair and Harmon’s presentation, the Waupaca Area Public Library will host an opening reception for the exhibit, “Waupaca’s Ragtime King: The Life and Music of Eddy Hanson,” in the Exhibit Hall of the lower level.

The free exhibition is scheduled from April 16 to June 4.

Liz Kneer, the library’s exhibit hall coordinator, said the exhibit “will examine the foundations of jazz and focus on Eddy Hanson and his music.”

Historical photographs, correspondence, instruments, interactive components and recordings accessible via QR codes on smart phones will be featured.

A traveling exhibit, “Ella Sings the Songbook,” will feature photos, original sheet music and a pop-up piano in commemoration with Ella Fitzgerald.

“She was the first widely recognized jazz artist in the United States,” Kneer said.

“Ella Sings the Songbook” is one of five traveling exhibits offered by the Great American Songbook Foundation.

The library will also host a virtual Roots of Jazz exhibit on its website.

Children’s Librarian Sue Abrahamson will present a virtual story hour about jazz and trombone playing. She asked Greg Biba and his quartet to give her a 30-second intro of “When the Saints Go Marching In” so kids listening to the story could also hear the brass sound.

Lectures, film

Ryan Korb will discuss how African drumming became one of the roots of jazz at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 2 at the Library.

A lecturer in jazz percussion and jazz studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Korb earned his bachelor’s degree in music performance from Lawrence University.

Korb co-leads an Afro-Cuban drumming trio, Africa->West. The trio plays original compositions based on traditional African and Cuban music.

Dr. Jack Rhodes will present and discuss “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 5 in the library’s lower level meeting room.

With songs written by Irving Berlin, this 1938 musical traces two decades of jazz, from ragtime to swing to the story of musician Roger Grant, aka Alexander.

Directed by Henry King, the film stars Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Ethel Merman and Jack Haley.

Rhodes earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and held faculty positions at Colorado College, the University of Utah, and the University of Miami in Ohio, where he served as president of the communications department and executive director of the Miami Regional Campus in Hamilton.

While in Miami, he taught a graduate class in Film Rhetoric and has now served for several years as a Film Studies Seminar Professor at Lawrence University’s Bjorklunden Campus.

Dr. Kurt Dietrich will discuss Wisconsin Jazz at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 9 at the library.

Dietrich is a retired music teacher and Barbara De Frees Professor of Performing Arts at Ripon College.

Dietrich graduated from Lawrence University, received his master’s degree from Northwestern University, and received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At Ripon College, Dietrich conducted the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the Jazz Ensemble, taught brass, and a variety of courses.

He was a trombonist with Matrix, an Appleton-based jazz fusion group that performed at the Monterey and Newport Jazz Festivals in the 1970s and released five recordings.

Player pianos

Catherine Hennessy Wolter will perform “Player Pianos: Bringing Music to the Masses” at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3 at the Waupaca Depot, 525 Oak St.

A Scholar-in-Residence in the Department of Music and Theater Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Hennessy Wolter earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Music from UW-Eau Claire, a Masters of Musicology from the University from Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and a doctorate in musicology from UIUC.

His thesis was “Sound Conversations: Print Media, Player Pianos, and Early Radio in the United States”.

Performances

rusty nails will perform at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4 at Simpson’s Restaurant, 222 S. Main St. Admission is free.

The group is dedicated to the preservation of American blues music.

With Steve Heiner on resonator and acoustic guitars, Ben Lillge on blues harp and double bass, and vocalist Cindy Lillge, Rusty Nails will explore the relationship between pre-war blues and early jazz.

They will pay tribute to musicians such as Blind Blake, Lonnie Johnson and Bessie Smith who helped shape the legacy of American blues.

The Limanya Drumming and Dance Ensemble will perform at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 5 at Waupaca Middle School.

Dating back thousands of years, the djembe drum held deep spiritual and social significance in celebrations of birth, death and marriage in West Africa.

The rhythms and associated dances are considered among the roots of American jazz.

Under the direction of Mandjou Mara and Maya Kadakia, the Limanya Ensemble will perform traditional music and dance from Guinea and Mali, West Africa.

Their performance combines song, dance, percussion and theatre.

Due to limited seating, advance tickets are required for admission, but available free of charge at Bookcellar, 110 S. Main St., 715-258-2555.

Bob Milne will play ragtime piano at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 6 at Danes Hall

Bob Milne will play ragtime piano at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 6 at Danes Hall, 301 N. Main St.

A world-renowned pianist, Milne spent three days at the Library of Congress being filmed and documented.

Milne attended the Eastman School of Music when she was 17, then became assistant first horn of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra when she was 19.

“After the symphony concerts, the students all went to hang out at local places. When the pianist failed to show up at a singing salon one evening, Mr. Milne replaced him. They hired him on the spot,” according to Milne’s website.

Based in Detroit, Milne has played piano in bars and saloons for 25 years. He started playing in concert halls in 1991.

He currently teaches music history at various universities nationwide and is also the founder and director of the Frankenmuth Ragtime Festival in Michigan.

Due to limited seating, advance tickets are required for admission, but available free of charge at Bookcellar, 110 S. Main St., 715-258-2555,

Jazz and blues singer Erin Krebs will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 7 at Waupaca High School Commons.

Krebs and her partner will feature the music of classic blues singers such as Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith.

Krebs was awarded WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) Female Vocalist of the Year for 2019 and in 2018 the duo Krebs and Johnston were recognized as the 2018 Jazz Artist of the Year.

She was also nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year (2016, 2017, 2018) and Jazz Artist of the Year in 2017.

Krebs received her Bachelor of Music Education in 2003 from UW-Oshkosh.

She has taught music in schools for a decade and is currently focusing on her singing career and gives private lessons in woodwinds, piano and voice.

Krebs has been a guest star with the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra, The Jazz Orgy, UW-Oshkosh Jazz Ensembles, Fond du Lac Symphonic Band, and more.

Her debut album, Love Always Wins, was released in June 2016.

Due to limited seating, advance tickets are required for admission, but available free of charge at Bookcellar, 110 S. Main St., 715-258-2555.

Art auction

Doris Weed has created an original piece of art that will be on display at Roots of Jazz events from April 25th to May 9th.

The work is framed and will be put up for silent auction.

Bids will be accepted until the final event on May 9, when the artwork will be awarded to the highest bidder.

Financial aid

Roots of Jazz events are supported by a gift from the Selma and Gerald Knoepfel Memorial Fund of Winchester Academy, a fund within the Waupaca Area Community Foundation. The late Selma Knoepfel, science teacher, and Gerald Knoepfel, music teacher, taught at Waupaca and were part of the Waupaca community for many years.

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