Studio visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, Melissa Merli chats with musician and teacher Ed Schaller.
Q: When are you leaving for Las Vegas?
A: In about two or three weeks.
Q: Exactly what will you be doing there? Teaching music?
A: Teaching social studies at an Innovations International charter high school, the same school where my brother, Bill, teaches. My master's is in social studies education. It's from the University of Illinois, too. I was teaching music at Parkland College and Millikin University — at Parkland for eight years and Millikin the last two.
Q: Wouldn't you like to teach music?
A: I actually prefer teaching social studies. I taught music history at Millikin. I like storytelling. That's what always drew me to history anyway.
Q: Aren't you working on a DMA in bass performance at the UI?
A: In jazz studies. I finished my course work awhile back. I'm rewriting my dissertation now.
Q: How long have you been playing bass?
A: Oh, a long time. Twenty-five years. Since I was 14 years old. Everybody always needs a bass player. It was a joke that Eddie Van Halen was my original bass influence — when I heard Eddie Van Halen play guitar I knew I could never do that so I started playing bass. I was sort of drawn to the low end.
Q: You've played in a lot of bands, haven't you? Which ones?
A: I led the In Your Ear Big Band the last three or four years. It was started by Peter Roubal, but I took it over from him. I've played with the Virtues, the Javelinas, a roots-folk band — another Bruiser (Bruce Rummenie) band. The Freak Brothers. I'm not the regular bass player for Bruiser and the Impalas, but I've played with them. And I've played with Erik Lund Jazz Friends.
Q: When's your last gig here?
A: Saturday (May 25) with the Virtues at the Clark Bar. If something else comes up, I might take it. I wasn't sure when we would move, so I stopped taking gigs for June.
Q: Do you prefer any one genre of music over another?
A: I like all of them. In the past, I played country-rock, R&B, blues and in punk bands in my youth.
Q: Did you grow up in Urbana?
A: Yes, we lived in Chicago for about six years and came back in 2000 so I could go to grad school. We fully intended to go back to Chicago.
Q: And you stayed.
A: Yes, with my wife, Susie, who ended up getting a great job.
Q: What were you doing up in Chicago?
A: I went to Northeastern Illinois University and toured with a swing band called Three Cent Stomp. I also toured with the Webstirs and June and the Exit Wounds. We actually toured Japan, which was fun.
Q: Weren't you a star wrestler at UHS?
A: I was all-state, in heavyweight. I no longer wrestle, but I still work out. I have a trainer now.
Q: What do you think of the local music scene?
A: I think it's great — the fact that the last few years I was able to play in as many bands as I did. As we say, there's always a venue to play for not a lot of money. What I told my Millikin students — they're all music students — is, "Yeah, study music. You too can make hundreds of dollars the rest of your life." If I really cared about money, I would have done something else.
Q: What will you miss most and miss the least about C-U?
A: I'll miss my folks (Ed and Kay Schaller of Urbana). They've always been my biggest fans. They come to most of my gigs. I'll probably miss the weather the least, as cliche as that sounds.