Giving back to the Chippewa Valley through music

Local musicians put together CD to raise money for a good cause


Photo by Brittany Walczak

Jennifer Hazen performs with musicians from the new Music Heals CD at The Plus.

A CD release event was held at The Plus in downtown Eau Claire on Sunday. The CD, titled Homegrown to represent the locality of the featured artists, was a project put together by local musician Jennifer Hazen and her program, Music Heals.

The project was started in May of 2015, when Hazen decided to give back to the community that had helped her through her own substance abuse recovery. She credits a lot of the progress she made to her involvement with music and said wanted to help others heal in the same way.

“I run a music group at Arbor Place that meets every Friday,” Hazen said. “(The participants) choose songs and we talk about the emotional impact of that song. Music can be very personal and subjective.”

In order to raise money to provide instruments for the group members, Hazen came up with the idea to put together a CD and use the proceeds from sales to buy and maintain instruments. She reached out to the Chippewa Valley community for help, and the response was “amazing.”

“They donated money and instruments,” Hazen said. “The generosity, time, and talent that went into the project has just been amazing.”

Sue Orfield, a local musician who plays tenor saxophone, is a friend of Hazen who was asked to play for several songs on the album, as well as help with a cover of one of her own original songs.

“I believe in the cause,” Orfield said. “I have a history with addiction myself, so there’s all sorts of reasons for me to give back.”

The CD comprises original songs created by local artists and covered by Hazen, with background and instrumental parts played by various musicians.

“It’s not genre specific,” Orfield said. “Jennifer picked songs from all walks. It’s all local songwriters, that’s the genre.”

A few of the local musicians included professors from the UW-Eau Claire campus, such as David Jones from the English department, as well as several others.

“It was cool to see a local musician bringing together a bunch of other local musicians’ songs,” Orfield said of the completed project. “It’s super fun, and I’m happy with the whole thing.”

Hazen agreed with the assessment, adding that “it was hard to hear at listen to at first — it was hard to hear myself at first — but I like it.”

“It just makes my heart big,” Hazen said.

The album “Music Heals: Homegrown” is available to purchase at The Local Store. All proceeds from the sales go to the Music Heals program to help purchase and repair instruments for people struggling with substance abuse disorders.