Bob Baca

Bob Baca, director of jazz studies at UW-Eau Claire, is receiving a state music award for distinguished service. He is show here at a rehearsal with Jazz I students in April. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

Bob Baca, whose name has become synonymous with jazz music performance and instruction at UW-Eau Claire, is being recognized for his contributions to music education, both on campus and in the community.

Baca, a Blugold professor and director of jazz studies, will receive the Wisconsin Music Educators Association’s Michael G. George Distinguished Service Award, an honor given annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to music and music education over a sustained period of time. George was the executive director of WMEA from 1988-2004, and again from 2009-2012. Under his leadership, WMEA and school music programs and activities experienced unprecedented growth.

Presentation of this award will be during the Wisconsin State Music Conference Oct. 24 in Madison.

“Robert Baca is a deserving winner of this prestigious award and the WMEA is proud to add him to the ranks of previous recipients,” said Lynn Seidl, WMEA past president. “The recommendation letters speak to his work with countless students in his studio and in the jazz ensembles, along with his involvement with the International Association of Jazz Educators as past executive board president, representing the United States, and as past president of the Wisconsin chapter.”

John Raymond, a 2009 UW-Eau Claire graduate and a professional jazz trumpeter and assistant professor of music at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, spoke in a nomination letter to the breadth of impact that Baca has on students, their music and their personal growth.

“He is not only a master educator and performer, a combination that few are able to balance so well, but he is a deeply influential mentor who gives every ounce of himself to the students,” Raymond said. “The proof of this is seen in the vibrant, supportive culture of hard work and ‘chasing after your dreams’ that he’s developed over the last 30+ years, not only at the school but in the entire community of Eau Claire and beyond. It’s safe to say that his impact is immeasurable.”

Mark Blaskey, executive director of Eau Claire Jazz Inc., described how the entity came to be, through Baca’s vision.

“In 2008 Bob recruited a handful of community members to help him found the nonprofit Eau Claire Jazz Inc. He wanted a concrete way to help the university ‘export’ all the wonderful aspects of the Blugold music program out into the community,” Blaskey described. “Since that time, with Bob’s guidance, the Eau Claire Jazz Fest has grown from 90 bands to 130, and added 52nd Street, a night that brings over 4,000 music lovers to downtown Eau Claire to enjoy an atmosphere of more than 50 bands playing in 19 venues up and down the main drag of downtown.”