A Conversation and Performance with Cedar County Cobras on the Legacy of Bill Sackter and Wild Bill’s

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A Conversation and Performance with Cedar County Cobras on the Legacy of Bill Sackter and Wild Bill’s

November 2, 2023 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Presented by The Englert Theatre & University of Iowa Libraries.

Join us at the University of Iowa Libraries’ Main Library Gallery for a special conversation and short performance from local musicians Cedar County Cobras on the legacy of Bill Sackter and his Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop. Moderated by Jen Knights. The event is free and starts at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2.

Free and open to the public! RSVP here for free.
RSVP recommended to help plan for attendance; seating is first come, first served.

The Main Library Gallery’s current exhibit, Hey Buddy, I’m Bill, examines the life and legacy of Bill Sackter, the original proprietor of Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop at the University of Iowa School of Social Work. Curated by Jen Knights and Brad Ferrier, the exhibit also explores the profound positive impact Bill and his many friends had on the nation’s understanding of people with disabilities. Learn more about Bill and the exhibition on the Main Library Gallery website.

The Cedar County Cobras represent the perfect intersection of Bill’s interests in music and helping others. A rollicking American roots and blues duo, the Cobras are also activists who believe in the healing power of music. April Dirks (bass and mandolin) has a PhD in Social Work from Iowa and is now a professor of social work at the university. Songwriter and guitarist Tom Spielbauer was diagnosed with Stargardt disease as a child and as a result is legally blind, lending his experience to Bill’s legacy as well.

About the Cedar County Cobras:

Cedar County Cobras play American roots and blues music from the last century. The music takes on an “old time” blues feel that would most likely be found in a juke-joint down a gravel road in rural Iowa. The musicians in the duo are activists and believe that music can be healing and an act of service, which makes the Cobras a perfect fit for playing the event celebrating Bill Sackter of Uptown Bill’s. April Dirks (upright bass & mandolin player) is very familiar with Uptown Bills. She studied under Tom Walz and earned her PhD in Social Work at the University of Iowa. She is now a Professor of Social Work and a performing musician. Tom Spielbauer is the song-writer and guitarist for the duo. The authentic sound of his music comes from a career of pouring concrete and working construction. In 2005, Tom was diagnosed with Stargardt disease (advanced macular degeneration) at a young age and declared legally blind. Following in the footsteps of countless other blind musicians, he traded his concrete tools for a guitar and a foot drum to play the blues full-time. To learn more about the Cedar County Cobras please visit: https://cedarcountycobras.com/

About the Hey Buddy, I’m Bill exhibition:

Hey Buddy, I’m Bill tells the story of Bill Sackter, the namesake of Wild Bill’s (formerly Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop) in the University of Iowa School of Social Work. From his early life in Minneapolis to his 44-year institutionalization for an intellectual disability to his years of friends and fame in Iowa City, the exhibit shares a glimpse into Bill’s life and legacy. The exhibit also acknowledges some of Iowa’s own history with institutionalization and progress with disability rights, and places Bill’s story in the context of the historic treatment of people with disabilities. The exhibit not only tells how Bill’s life embodied the disability practices and perspectives of his time, but also how the national prominence of his life story helped America make progress toward better understanding and treatment of people with disabilities.


Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Sara in advance at 319-467-1805 or sara-pinkham@uiowa.edu.


November 2, 2023
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Main Library Gallery, University of Iowa Libraries
125 W Washington St
Iowa City, IA 52242 United States
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