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Wind Symphony Conductor Richard Fischer Celebrates 50 Years at CUC

Julian Perez
Dr. Richard Fischer conducts the Wind Symphony in rehearsal on Feb. 8.

Richard Fischer first discovered his love for music listening to a record of Antonín Dvořák’s “New World Symphony,” a gift from his father, on the little stereo system in his childhood bedroom.

Fischer listened to all four movements, but was especially moved by the second, or largo, movement and the English horn solo in it. This was the first time Fischer realized that music sparked feelings and curiosity within him that he hadn’t felt before.

Fischer is celebrating his 50th year of teaching and conducting the Wind Symphony at CUC.

“He would have students come in with fairly minimal experiences and turn them into wonderful ensembles,” said Jean Harrison Bojes, a 1984 graduate and former professor of music education. “What he brings to his students and what the students bring to him is such a magical mixture.“

Fischer received his bachelor’s in education and his master’s in music education from DePaul University in 1979. He earned his doctorate in conducting from Michigan State University in 1987. 

After graduating with his bachelor’s from DePaul, Fischer was looking for a conducting position. The conductor at CUC at the time informed Fischer that he was leaving soon, and advised him to apply for the job. Fischer applied and was turned down due to his lack of experience and a master’s degree.

While on a three-month tour of the Pacific Northwest with an orchestra he was part of, he received a phone call from his mother regarding the position at CUC.

“My mother called me and said, ‘You got the job at Concordia,’ and I told her that she misunderstood,” said Fischer. “I called the department chair, and he told me I wasn’t who they wanted, but asked if I could fill the position until they found someone more qualified. I said yes.” 

In 1974, Fischer conducted his first concert at CUC. Afterwards, he was called into the president’s office and met with the academic dean and music department chair. They told him they wanted him to stay at CUC as a music instructor, and offered to pay for his master’s degree to promote him later on.

Fischer still keeps folders full of all of his old performance programs, accomplishments, and letters he received since starting at CUC. Under Fischer, the Wind Symphony has toured extensively, performing in 43 states, several Canadian provinces, as well as China, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and South Africa.

“My favorite program was playing at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 2014,” said Fischer. “They took a risk in inviting us because we were a small school, but we were so good that we were invited back in 2019.” 

Fischer was named to the “A-Team” of university professors by the Chicago Tribune in 1994 and earned the Fred and Jane Wittlinger Endowed Chair in Music Performance at Concordia in 2013. That endowment helped Fischer reach a wider audience to spread his music and passion. 

Although his 50 years at CUC have been marked with success, there was still conflict along the way. Fischer struggles with Tourette’s syndrome, OCD, anxiety and depression he developed due to growing up in a dysfunctional home. 

“Those struggles made me stronger and better,” said Fischer. “I would not be here today if it had come so easy to me.”

To Fischer, music provided him with a sense of community from a very young age. Music helped him become stronger despite the obstacles he had to overcome. 

“I am still trying to grow and I want to be even better, both for my students and for the audience, ” said Fischer. “That desire of wanting to grow helps me keep doing this. I can’t imagine doing anything else.” 


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About the Contributors
Fatima Martinez
Fatima Martinez, Reporter
Julian Perez, Photographer