After the music cuts at UW-Eau Claire, music space enthusiasts had no way to get together outside of work hours. In a city filled with such fervor for all things musical, it only took a few string teachers from a local public school to agree and say, “Maybe we should organize an orchestra. Eau Claire is certainly quite large. And that’s exactly what Bill Eisenbarth did. After this decision in 1975, the Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra (CVSO) took root in the valley.
Eisenbarth is the last founder who, until now, still plays in the orchestra. Playing second violin and learning the viola 15 years later, it was the magic of music that brought together a sense of unity and challenge.
“For me, I was able to sit in the center of the orchestra, the strings right in front, and everyone was still seated behind me and I could hear everything. … I could hear the harmony” , he explained. “It’s quite a thrill.”
It’s that thrill that has kept him performing, year after year, now in his 46th year of musical contribution. And his efforts multiplied over the years: he first became chairman of the board of directors, then was elected chairman of the education committee. He continues to give as a trustee.
Now, instead of being on the front lines with the orchestra in motion, Eisenbarth steps back from the playing to go behind the scenes on the leadership aspects of the orchestra, pursuing his musical passions on the fringes.
“Over the last two or three years of playing, it was getting harder and harder to play,” he said. “I’ll be there in the background, I’ll carry on.”
On September 24, the organization held a celebration to honor Eisenbarth’s contributions to the orchestra and the Valley music scene as a whole.
“It was very kind, very touching, a lot of people came to see me afterwards and thanked me for starting,” he said. “It was very, very good.”
Finally, as he retires, Eisenbarth encourages the love of music to grow in the community and calls us all in gratitude for the growth of the organization: perform.”
Most important to Eisenbarth is the continuation of such a special space for music to thrive. “I hope the community realizes what a gem (this) symphony is,” he said. “I hope they continue to realize this and support us.”
Learn more about CVSO events, membership and leadership, and inquire about an audition at cvsymphony.org.