A long standing Chi-Hi music event will celebrate a milestone Friday with its biggest show yet.
Michael Renneke, an instrumental music teacher at the high school, said the evening will feature a wide variety of music in multiple genres that will satisfy anyone with a love for live music.
“We’ll play a little bit of everything,” Renneke said. “We’ll play some swing tunes and some dance numbers from the big-band era, but we’ll also work in some Latin music, a couple of rock/funk charts and certainly a couple of numbers for some slow dancing. I think it’s something people should really be looking forward to because there is something in there for everyone.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ChiHi Big Band Bash, and Renneke said the event has evolved significantly over the decades.
When the event started, it was mostly an adult affair with swing dancing lessons, and the music catered to an older generation as well. Over time, it began to spotlight the talent at local schools and in the community.
Beyond just being a fun night of local music, Renneke said, the event is one of the biggest fundraisers for the middle and high school jazz groups. The money raised pays for many of their performances.
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“It started out as a Valentine’s Day dance, and has really evolved over the last 20 years,” Renneke said. “It’s a big fundraiser for our jazz band. It helps pay for their participation at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival and other events they compete and perform at throughout the year. It pairs the schools’ bands together and a community band, so it’s a great time overall and it really harkens back to an older era.”
A new tradition is having an older community jazz ensemble step in to mentor the students. The Troppo Big Band Jazz Orchestra will be this year’s veteran ensemble.
Renneke said having them be a part of the event will be a valuable experience for his students, and he looks forward to hearing the band perform Friday night.
“It’s a great opportunity to have a more experienced group mentor these young musicians,” Renneke said. “The middle school kids get to see what the high school kids are doing and what awaits them in high school, but then the high school kids get to see, even if they become a doctor or a middle school math teacher, that they can still be playing their instrument and have music in their life in a really high quality way.”