Duane “Danno” Kebschull prefers to stay out of the limelight, but these days he’s getting a sense of the far-reaching impact he has had on the local music community.
Kebschull, known through his DMi Sound business, is a familiar sight handling sound and light production at all manner of events for going on two decades. But after seriously injuring his leg in late June, he faces a lengthy rehabilitation and substantial medical bills.
Local musicians and fans have responded with a GoFundMe campaign; “Need a Little Help to Heal,” a compilation album of 17 original songs by regional musical artists; and a three-day musical event next weekend featuring 20 acts at Stones Throw.
“People are sitting there doing things for the guy that normally tells them, ‘Turn it down!’ he said with a wry smile during an interview at his home. “It’s touching. It’s definitely gotten to me emotionally. I find out that people are doing things and … get a little teary at times.” That’s saying something, considering Kebschull takes pride in being an “even-keel guy.”
Here’s how Kebschull described the injury: “I was doing something that was so elementary and so simple and I’ve done it hundreds of times, and it’s one of those life situations where just because you’ve done something a hundred or 200 times in your life doesn’t mean its always going to go right.”
Specifically, he shattered the bones beneath his knee. According to a message on the GoFundMe page written by Cheryl Apfel Wise, president of the Chippewa Valley Blues Society: “It’s technically called a Tibial Plateau Fracture with fragmentation, displacement, and extensive soft tissue damage. This is a severe, life-changing injury.”
Kebschull, who said he hopes to get back to abut 80 percent mobility eventually, has taken a sometimes philosophical view of his situation.
“It’s definitely kind of nudged at me to slow down in life and not do so much and so fast,” he said.
Labor of love
That may not be as easy as it sounds, considering that he also has a full-time job as an on-air personality on a local radio station. He also handles some technical tasks at the station. The jobs at the station and DMi Sound, which he started sometime around 2000, go hand in hand, he said.
“The one makes sure there’s a roof over my head and makes it possible for me to take the money that I make on the other one and put it back into it so we can do more for people,” he said. “That’s my passion. I love it. It’s definitely a love.”
Part of that love is based on his commitment to help those needing a hand.
“I have a hard time saying no to a good cause,” he said, explaining that he does try to keep in mind how tight a budget a group is on when he makes out the bill. Here are just some of the efforts he has helped over the years:
• The Stand in the Light Memory Choir, a group directed by Cathy Reitz for people in the early to mid stages of memory loss and their care partners to come together and share their love of music.
• Bolton Refuge House’s October Awareness Month programs at venues such as Owen Park and the Eau Claire County Exposition Center.
• Chippewa Valley ATVers club’s holiday events. “They like to do big setups for the Christmas parades to make the kids smile,” he said. “And so I always provide them with sound equipment.”
• Blues on the Chippewa in Durand as well as the Beatles on the Chippewa fundraiser for the festival, which offers free admission.
• Tuesday Night Blues, which just completed its 11th season, sponsored by the Chippewa Valley Blues Society, a group he’s been working with in various capacities since they started.
• The first 10 or 11 years of Volume One’s Sounds Like Summer Concert Series, the Phoenix Park event that began in 2006.
• The annual Decadent Cabaret, a two or three-day local band event that this year celebrated its 40th anniversary.
• The House of Rock, a now closed music venue on Water Street, “from its birth to its grave.”
Adrian Klenz, a singer whose credits include the Chippewa Valley Jazz Orchestra and now disbanded blues group The Kingsnakes, said Kebschull’s commitment to the scene hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“As long as I can remember, he’s been here and an institution of Eau Claire music,” Klenz said. “I started playing in Eau Claire in about 1996 and ... he was there not only doing sound but helping promote it.”
Anastasia Vishnevsky, who has worked individually as well as jointly with Kebschull in the local music community for a number of years and is his friend and partner, discovered the depth of the music community’s appreciation for Kebschull and his commitment to it immediately after the accident — from the moment she met him at Mayo Clinic Health System’s emergency department.
“People were messaging both of us to ask what they could do to help (word travels fast in the music community),” she said in written comments for this article. “I had to pry Duane’s cellphone from his hand when they wheeled the X-ray machine into the room, and I was responding to multiple messages and calls on his phone as well as my own. They were all almost identical: ‘What happened? What do you need? What can I do?’
“And Danno?” she continued. “He was insisting on relaying messages through me — a phone next to each of my ears — to ensure that his production commitments for the week were covered ... all while he was getting poked, prodded, stuck with needles, and immobilized. He was far less concerned with the injury and pain than he was with making sure shows would go on successfully.”
The list of musicians and music fans who have lent assistance continues to grow, as Vishnevsky outlined. For instance:
• Matt Gehler and Tammy Kline of Stones Throw volunteered to host a benefit show at the venue, and Apfel Wise agreed to help coordinate. But what was intended to be a single-day show grew, as a weekend of time slots was filled in less than 48 hours, “and people still wanted to volunteer as ‘backup’ in case of any unforeseen cancellations.”
• Bentley Harder volunteered to run sound for two days of the Stones Throw event, and Jennifer Hazen volunteered for the third; they will be mixing multiple bands for hours on end, and providing their own equipment in order to do so.
• Donations of products and services for a silent auction have been made from local musicians and artists, music store owners and even the Green Bay Packers. Apfel Wise is helping coordinate that effort too.
• Ryan Harrington, who along with Vishnevsky came up with the idea of a benefit album, helped on the effort even though he now lives in Germany. Harrington and Vishnevsky also wrote songs for the album.
• Vishnevsky will be filming a music video of Harrington’s song “Need a Little Help to Heal,” featuring Klenz on vocals; more of Kebschull’s friends have been invited to be a part of the project. Harrington will edit the video, and it will be released online to raise awareness of the benefit shows and the GoFundMe campaign.
While Kebschull has been healing, he said, his crew at DMi Sound has been “doing the brunt of the work,” but he has been able to handle some tasks, including Blues on the Chippewa.
“I was able to mix,” he said of the three-day festival. “I couldn’t do any of the physical labor, obviously, but the crew got everything in place and we did that show so we got all that gear down there and built, had a really good year for that one.”
Kebschull also has helped with some shows at The Metro. “I get in there and basically smile,” he said. “That’s all I can do right now.”
The support he’s received from the music community continues to amaze him.
“I couldn’t ask for better,” he said. “Even though it is kind of a disjointed, fractured little world we have in town. It’s not like if you weren’t family you wouldn’t drop things and go do a show for a guy who tells you to turn down all the time.”
He began listing the bands contributing to the effort.
“You’ve got everything from startups, young bands to the Drunk Drivers to Mojo Lemon; there’s tons of different bands that stepped forward,” he said. “Some people barely know me. It says a lot about them.”
He added that says more about the music scene than it does about him.
“That’s one thing in this community, where everyone’s always been willing to step up and go to town for somebody who’s having a rough spell, who needs it,” he said. “I don’t know what the magic number is, but I must have passed it and now all of a sudden there’s one for me.”
Klenz and Vishnevsky acknowledged the local music community in general does band together to help those in need. But both pointed out that help Kebschull has drawn goes beyond the usual level of support.
“I agree that local musicians are very willing to support causes,” Klenz said. “There’s tons of benefit shows that come up from time to time, and you can always find musicians who lend their talents to that, but I think this brings it to a different level. You look at that three-day lineup; it’s just a ton of great local musicians, and that speaks to how much Danno means to everybody.”
Vishnevsky observed how varied Kebschull’s efforts have been.
“All of this community-wide willingness to participate — to donate, to perform, to contribute in some way — stems from Danno’s efforts to support musicians and music venues over the years,” she wrote. “People who have known him far longer than I have shared their personal stories about how Danno made a difference in their lives ... how the sometimes seemingly-gruff, larger-than-life guy behind the mixing board is actually a compassionate ‘teddy bear’ who has gone out of his way to lend a hand, offer encouragement, or fix a problem — whether that problem be professional or personal.”
Although Kebschull is himself a musician, he said the technical side of things better suited his personality.
“I’m an introvert,” he said. “My happy place is in the shadows.”
That vantage point, he said, offers him a significant reward on a regular basis.
“I always tell people the best feeling to me is when the crowd is enjoying the show, and when we get through the show, when we get through the night, and I can sit there and go, ‘Nobody knew I was there.’ That’s the best feeling in the world; it really is.”
Maybe so, but many people obviously feel his hard work and dedication to local music also deserve a little bit of the spotlight.