University News

Strings and service: Charlie Shilhavy earns national music award

February 12, 2024

Written by Chris Lindeke | Video by Kyle Winter | Photos by Craig Schreiner

What started as a hobby became a lifestyle for University of Wisconsin-Whitewater student Charlie Shilhavy.

“I wake up and I think about music, I go to sleep thinking about music,” said Shilhavy, who plays bass. “It’s something that brings me joy and gives me purpose – to be able to create, perform and learn. It’s hard to put it into words what it does for me. I feel like I’m on the right path following music.”

UW-Whitewater and its surrounding communities are reaping the benefits of his passion, and he will be recognized for his work by a national organization.

Shilhavy, a music major from Racine, was named the 2024 recipient of the Student Exemplary Service Award from the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) as part of the organization’s Student Chapter Awards. He will be honored at the ASTA National Conference on March 20-23 in Louisville, Kentucky.



Shilhavy is the fourth Warhawk to win the award in the last 11 years, joining Jasmyn Kosier (2020), Alexa Zakutansky (2018) and Deanne Carloni (2013).

He put in his name for the award with the encouragement of Benjamin Whitcomb, UW-Whitewater professor of music and faculty advisor to the ASTA chapter.

“I applied for it not really thinking much of it, but it was really cool to win it,” Shilhavy said. “It was nice to see recognition from the national chapter, so it means a lot to me. It makes me feel like I’m actually making a difference.”

Shilhavy has served as president of UW-Whitewater’s ASTA chapter for the last three semesters. He leads efforts by the group to promote string education and string performance on campus and in the community. The group performs for residents at nearby Fairhaven Senior Services and works with local elementary, middle and high schools to advocate for string education.

As part of Music in our Schools Month in March, Shilhavy will lead UW-Whitewater’s music ensembles out into the community to perform for students in their schools. ASTA also organizes string educational sessions and boot camps for UW-Whitewater music education majors who don’t play a string instrument, but will someday teach it.

Shilhavy also works at UW-Whitewater's Strings Summer Camp, sharing his music acumen and wisdom with middle and high school students, and is a student staff member for the department of music.

Photo of Charlie Shilhavy.

Shilhavy plays bass for UW-Whitewater’s Chamber Orchestra and bassoon for the Whitewater Symphony Orchestra, the university’s flagship orchestra. He has been a recipient of multiple scholarships during his time as a Warhawk, including the College of Arts and Communication Scholarship and the college’s Outstanding Junior Award scholarship.

Life at UW-Whitewater didn’t start easily for Shilhavy – he came to UW-Whitewater during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was in the high school graduating class of 2020, so there wasn’t a lot going on campus when I got here, but I got introduced to the ASTA chapter,” Shilhavy said. “At the time, there’s not much we could do, but we were still creating videos of us playing and sending them to Fairhaven and around schools. It felt really good for me to do stuff like that.”

He found his niche in the department of music and ASTA, building relationships with fellow students and the faculty, a reason he pointed to for choosing from among a handful of options to attend UW-Whitewater coming out of Racine Horlick High School.

“We’re a big department, but we’re also a small department in the sense that everyone knows everyone,” Shilhavy said. “The faculty really make a point to build that relationship with their students. They’re always pushing us to be better and to explore, learn and create. It’s a really welcoming environment and it’s conducive to learning.”

Shilhavy will hold his next student recital for bass on April 20 from 1-1:30 p.m. at the Greenhill Center of the Arts. The event is free to attend and does not require a ticket for entry.

After completing his coursework this spring, Shilhavy will student teach during the fall 2024 semester and finally cross the stage to receive his degree in December — an opportunity he didn’t get as a high school student during the height of the pandemic.

He hopes to use his triple certification — which includes instrumental, choral, and general music — to land a K-through-12 teaching job and eventually earn a master’s degree.

“I want to end up in a place that needs me — a place that could use my personality, my knowledge,” Shilhavy said. “I want to make a difference for some kids and be that reason they come to school, like my band director was for me.”

The Student Exemplary Service Award recognizes and rewards college string students who distinguished themselves as active members and supporters of ASTA while in college. Criteria includes ASTA membership, participation in string-related activities on campus, and service and outreach for both the university and ASTA.

Other past winners of the award include students from high-profile institutions including Florida State University, the University of Colorado, Texas Tech University and others.

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