Music grad takes over leadership of youth symphony
This article features Gene Power, who received his music education degree from UW-Eau Claire in 2002. The article appeared in the May 16, 2006, issue of the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram and is reprinted with permission.
May 16, 2006
By Ann Barsness
Gene Power '02 (Eau Claire Leader-Telegram photo)
A Fall Creek band director and performer who developed an interest in orchestra while attending UW-Eau Claire will lead the Chippewa Valley Youth Symphony starting this fall.
Gene Power, 27, who leads Fall Creek's 150-student, sixth- through 12th-grade band program, also is assistant conductor for the Chippewa Valley Symphony. He has conducted orchestras for the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild and the Eau Claire Children's Theatre - and filled in at one Youth Symphony rehearsal last season.
"I was instantly amazed by their ability level. I was impressed with how well they played and how receptive they were - just how quickly they understood," Power said in a phone interview during a break between lessons in Fall Creek. "Those kids just have so much energy and enthusiasm for playing. It's something that goes above and beyond the classroom that I teach in normally."
Gordon Murphy, president of the Youth Symphony's four-person board of directors, said enthusiasm was the primary trait required to lead the group of seventh- through 12th-grade musicians, who come from throughout the Chippewa Valley and beyond to rehearse one night a week during the school year.
Murphy said the board had considered several individuals for the unpaid post but in the last two weeks had narrowed its focus to two. (The Chippewa Valley Youth Symphony is among UW-Eau Claire's Continuing Education programs; musicians pay fees that cover expenses.)
Power will succeed Ivar Lunde Jr., who helped start the organization 25 years ago. Lunde conducted his final Youth Symphony concert May 13. Murphy said he waited to obtain a signature before releasing the information.
"I think the most important thing is that he agrees fully with the current philosophy of Ivar's: The student comes first," Murphy said Monday.
Power taught at Memorial High School for one year after he earned a bachelor's degree in music education from UW-Eau Claire in 2002. He lost that job to budget cuts and taught in Caledonia, Minn., for one year before the Fall Creek position opened.
Power's wife, Kaia Simon Power, teaches English at Northstar Middle School. The couple lives in Eau Claire.
Primarily a woodwinds musician - Power started on the saxophone and clarinet; he occasionally fills in for the Twin Cities-based group Five By Design and for the Chippewa Valley Big Band - he was assistant director of UW-Eau Claire's University Symphony Orchestra and played clarinet in that group. During the summers, Power has attended string workshops.
"I'm a wind player. That's been kind of the challenge," Power said. Among his strengths Power listed his background in education.
"I relate to younger people really well. What that means is that I'm able to work with those kids and hopefully bring them to the next level of performance," Power said.
Once he and the musicians get used to each other, Power said, he might explore options such as bringing in a guest artist or guest conductor. (With grant funding, Power helped bring the Twin Cities-based Hornheads to Fall Creek High School this spring.)
"Just trying to provide that kind of an opportunity for students is one of my goals," Power said.