First-year student remembered for love of music, nature

Photo: Cassidy Fritsch

Cassidy Fritsch came to UW-Madison with a track record of academic success and a readiness to get involved. In just over six weeks on campus, she had already joined several organizations that spoke to her concern about the natural world: the Veterinary Science Club and the GreenHouse Residential Learning Community.

Fritsch, 17, passed away unexpectedly on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 9. A first-year student from Brookfield, Ill., she was a resident of the new Aldo Leopold residence hall, named for the pioneer of wildlife ecology.

Fittingly, Fritsch was known to friends on campus as “Kestrel” – a small falcon, adaptable to a variety of nesting situations and environments.

A visitation will take place on Sunday, October 13 from 3-8 p.m. and Monday, October 14 from 9-9:30 a.m. at Hitzeman Funeral Home, 9445 West 31st Street, Brookfield, Ill. A funeral service will follow on Monday, Oct. 14 at 9:30 a.m., with mass held at 10 a.m. at St. Louise de Marillac Church in La Grange Park, Ill.

A 2013 graduate of Riverside Brookfield High School, Fritsch had interests in many areas, whether excelling in school-related activities or giving her time to those in her community. In her short time at UW-Madison, she had already joined the Physics Club, Math Team and Veterinary Science Club. At Leopold Hall, near the Lake Mendota shore, she chose to live in the GreenHouse Residential Learning Community, giving her extended access to classes, programs and discussions focused on living and working in a sustainable manner.

She also excelled in the humanities. A scholar of German, she studied the language on campus after receiving gold medal honors for four straight years in the National German Exam. She had also received second place, twice, in the University of Illinois-Chicago’s German Essay Competition. As a musician, she served as principal oboist in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras from 2010-2012, as well as a private oboe and piano instructor. She had branched out at UW-Madison, playing the bass in the All-University String Orchestra.

Janet Jensen, associate director of the School of Music and professor of string pedagogy, met Fritsch on the first night of rehearsal for the All-University String Orchestra. Fritsch had decided to play the string bass in Jensen’s ensemble, a group primarily made up of non-majors driven by their love for orchestral playing. Even in the early stages of playing the bass, her musicality came through.

“She was an accomplished musician; she came up to any musical standard,” says Jensen. “She was very pleased about playing in a chamber group and had written how excited she was.”

As a former flute player herself, Jensen found kinship with the young musician seeking a new way to experience her art.

Over just a few weeks, the two had engaged in conversations that had gone beyond typical student-teacher chats into something more personal and deeply felt.

“We talked about the proprioceptivity of the cello and bass, the lowest members of the orchestra,” says Jensen, who remembers her final conversation with Fritsch on Monday night. “Because of the late transfer to strings in my own life, I was looking forward to working with her in a lot of ways.”

Students and staff members have worked with staff from University Health Services (UHS) and the Division of Student Life. Additional students in need of counseling or support, as a result of this incident or any other situation, should contact UHS at (608) 265-5600 or drop-in between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For immediate assistance after hours or on weekends, please call the UHS Crisis Line at (608) 265-5600, option 9.

Condolences and memories of Cassidy can be shared through the funeral home.
— Susannah Brooks