On Campus Music Dance

Gatsby’s Gala Roars Back for 2021

this weekend’s 1920s-style party at UWEC will have jazz, dancing – and masks

Denise Olson | UWEC Integrated Marketing and Communications, photos by Taylor Smith |

SWINGING THE NIGHT AWAY. A scene from Gatsby's Gala in 2019.
SWINGING THE NIGHT AWAY. A scene from Gatsby's Gala in 2019.

One of the signature events at UW-Eau Claire is Gatsby’s Gala, and the music and dance return to Davies Center at 7pm Saturday, Nov. 13.

Serving as a primary annual fundraising event for the Eau Claire Jazz Festival and the UW-Eau Claire jazz studies program, this seventh Gatsby’s Gala will bring back the Roaring ’20s in what organizers are calling “the biggest party of the year.”

“I used to call this an annual event,” says Quentin Volk, executive director of Eau Claire Jazz Inc. “Now I think it should really just be called an annual party – it’s a huge bash.”

And thanks to recommended COVID-19 protocols on campus, it also will be a safe gathering for music and dance lovers.

“With the vast size of the venue we use, the entire third floor of Davies Center, and adherence to the required mask policy, the board feels that attendees can safely enjoy themselves,” Volk says.

Robert Baca, professor of trumpet and director of jazz studies at UW-Eau Claire, shares Volk’s enthusiasm that a favorite community celebration can return safely in 2021.

“After being through what we have been through for the last year and a half, and with the comfort of our university protocols keeping us safe, faculty, students and community, let’s work our way back to normal – Gatsby style,” Baca says.

A Blugold at the helm

Volk, a 2018 Blugold music graduate, played trumpet with the jazz program and performed at five Gatsby’s Gala events prior to joining the organization as executive director. Coordinating the return to a live event has been a “labor of love” for him.

“I spent my college career watching the impact that Eau Claire Jazz Inc. has on the community and schools throughout the Midwest. Once I graduated and started developing some real-world experience, I nearly jumped at the opportunity to apply when the position opened,” Volk says.

When asked what partygoers can expect of the night, Volk gives a description that only someone with true insider knowledge can offer.

“We have two nationally renowned big bands, UWEC’s Jazz Ensembles I and II, competing in a ‘battle of the big bands’ manner all night. They go back and forth, outplaying each other throughout the entire party – it’s an experience you can’t find anywhere else,” Volk says.

“When the big bands eventually collapse from total exhaustion, we raise the bar and bring in the famous ‘Weapons of Brass Destruction’ to blow the walls down while the big bands take a few minutes to get their energy back. Appearing throughout the night are also community guest artists and surprise vocalists. We top that with trumpet features from Mr. Robert Baca himself – it’s a night like no other.”

As if all that weren’t convincing enough, the night also includes charity-gaming, a raffle, food, beverages ,and the fun of 1920s Prohibition-era garb. Lastly, the event is taking place for the first time on a Saturday night, giving gala-goers a full day to prepare their costumes and dance moves.

Tickets to Gatsby’s Gala are $45 for the general public and $20 for college students. Learn more about buy tickets on the UWEC website.