Eau Claire’s population may be right around 70,000, but when you get right down to it, it’s still a still pretty small town – small enough, it seems, that we’re all only one or two degrees removed from each other.
That certainly was that when jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer was growing up in the Third Ward and Putnam Heights neighborhoods. “All my best friends lived on the same street, and we ran around in the ’70s, and as long as we were home for dinner, nobody really bothered with where you were,” Keezer told me in a recent interview. The occasion for his reminiscence was the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition he won early this month. (You can read more about it right here.) Keezer may have moved away more than 30 years ago to pursue a career as a jazz pianist, but in conversation he still very much seems the humble Midwesterner despite his many successes.
Of course, Eau Claire being the small town that it is, it’s easy to find things in common with a fellow Eau Clairian – even one many years removed from his hometown. Keezer, for instance, went to school at Putnam Heights Elementary, the same as my kids. And – as I discovered later when looking up old newspaper clippings – when he was born, his family lived in the same house on State Street that my wife and I lived in 40 years later when our son was born.
What can I do with that coincidence? Probably just chalk it up to living in a small town.