One in a Long Chain of Fools

Aug. 21, 2012

He's a little bit brainy, a little bit rhythm and blues.

By day, Ernie Schloss teaches in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Healthand administers the Interprofessional Education & Practice program in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences.

By night, you may find him playing rhythm guitar at various Tucson locations with the Chain of Fools Blues Band. The band plays a mixture of original songs and classic blues works by Charlie Musselwhite, Paul Butterfield, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King and others.

Since Schloss co-founded the band in 1992, more than 45 individuals have "played out" with the group, the majority of them current or former UA students or employees. Schloss currently is joined by lead guitarist Kenny Williams, bassist Dave Wilson, drummer Andy Briefer and lead singer and harmonica player Dave Hayden, all of whom have ties to the UA.

Schloss not only works for the UA – he also earned two degrees here: a master’s in anthropology in 1973 and a doctorate in educational administration in 1983.

Wilson, a retired architect, also is a UA grad, having earned a bachelor's degree in architecture in 1975. Retired teacher Hayden received his bachelor's in education in 1978, and Briefer, an assisted living facility owner and operator, earned his bachelor's in business in 1982, with a double major in finance and real estate.

Williams’s wife, Hildi Williams, is a senior program coordinator with the College of Medicine's Office of Medical Student Education and occasionally sings backup with the band.

Jan Cervelli, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, also is an occasional backup and lead singer.

Schloss began playing guitar in eighth grade. Originally, he wanted to be a folk singer in the style of The Kingston Trio or Bud & Travis.

"Then, like every other kid I knew in the early '60s, I wanted to play electric surf guitar – the first rhythm part I played was ‘Pipeline’ by the Ventures – and songs by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, two groups that introduced me to the blues," he said.

In high school, Schloss played in a rock band but dropped out and stopped playing the guitar "when the rest of the members got way better than me," he said. "Our lead singer, Alex Call, went on to form the band Clover with Huey Lewis and still is a songwriter in Nashville."

But in 1992, Schloss saw the movie "The Commitments," about an Irish soul and blues band, with his friend Ed Davenport, the bass player in the Titan Valley Warheadsbluegrass band.

"I was so inspired by the music that I whispered to Ed, ‘I want to start a band.’ In surprise, he turned to me and asked, ‘What do you play and what kind of band?’" he recalled. "The rest is history. With a lot of help from my teacher, local guitarist Ed DeLucia, I learned to play passable rhythm guitar. And since I’ve surrounded myself with really good musicians, people tell us they enjoy the music."

Playing in a working band uses collaboration, organization and management skills that also are reflected in Schloss’ day job. He teaches the College of Public Health’s “Introduction to Public Health Management and Policy” core course, which covers the organization, financing and delivery of public health systems in the United States. “Students learn about strategic planning, building partnerships, budgeting and evaluation, skills also involved in running a band,” he says. 

In addition, he teaches “Strategic Planning and Health Care Quality and Safety” courses under the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences.

“This program represents the future of health professions education,” he says. “It trains health professions students to work collaboratively in teams, to communicate effectively and to develop an appreciation of each other’s roles and responsibilities, and work together with a shared set of values and ethics.” Not unlike the way band members work together, although the goal in this case is to improve the health of patients, their families and communities.

For more information about The Chain of Fools blues band and upcoming performances, get in touch with Schloss directly at