Park Ridge Civic Orchestra Founder Edgar Muenzer, Dies

Edgar Muenzer, co-founder of the award-winning Park Ridge Civic Orchestra and a 47-year veteran violinist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has died following a long illness. He was 88 years old.

Muenzer, a longtime Park Ridge resident, founded the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra with his wife Nancy and a cadre of dedicated supporters in September, 1994. Their goal was to bring professional symphonic performances to patrons of all ages, affordably and accessibly. Muenzer was the Orchestra’s music director for nearly two decades, until July, 2012; and conducted his final two concerts in February and March of 2013. On retirement, he was succeeded by his son Victor and was named Music Director Emeritus.

Muenzer’s long musical career includes 47 years as a renowned violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, from 1954 until 2003.  His musical credits also include performing with the Chicago Symphony String Quartet, teaching violin at Northwestern University and serving as concertmaster for the Northbrook Symphony.

“Park Ridge Civic Orchestra was how Edgar wanted to give back to the community after a rewarding lifetime in professional music,” says longtime family friend and PRCO President Pam Benitez. “He was a great-hearted visionary who never stopped sharing his talent and passion for great music.”

Under Maestro Muenzer, the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra grew to be recognized as one of the finest professional symphonies in Illinois. The orchestra’s contribution to Park Ridge and surrounding communities has been acknowledged with numerous awards, including the Governor’s Hometown Award; 10 awards from the Illinois Council of Orchestras, including “Orchestra of the Year;” Pickwick Arts Award; and several Mayoral Proclamations from the City of Park Ridge. Edgar and Nancy Muenzer also received the Illinois Humanities Council Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award.

Highlights over the seasons include feature performances by a broad array of famous guest artists: violin virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine; the late CSO principal trumpeter Adolph Herseth; pianist Ralph Votapek; CSO principal cellist John Sharp; baritone William Warfield; CSO concertmasters Samuel Magad, Fritz Reiner, Sir Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, and Robert Chen; twin pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton; Blackhawks national anthem singer Jim Cornelison; pianist Leah Dominy; and famed harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy. The orchestra’s memorable, critically acclaimed performances have included Holst's The Planets, Orff's Carmina Burana, Verdi’s Requiem, Brahams’ Requiem , Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor “Choral", Ravel’s Bolero, Gershwin's An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

Muenzer is survived by his devoted wife and Orchestra co-founder Nancy; His son, Victor, the Orchestra’s current music director; sons Peter and James; and grandsons Gregory and Gabriel.  

Visitation is Tuesday, July 26 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Ryan Parke Funeral Home. Services are Wednesday, July 27 at 10 a.m. at Park Ridge Community Church. Interment will be at Saint Adalbert Cemetery in Niles.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the non-profit Park Ridge Civic Orchestra are greatly appreciated.