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Crocker: J.S. Bach of UNK: Dr. Ron Crocker fulfills his passion with music and directing
Amanda Schipporeit
Antelope Staff
Photo by Amanda Schipporeit

Dr. Ron Crocker is many things: associate dean in the College of Fine Arts and Humanities, interim chair of the department of art and art history AND interim director of the theatre program at UNK.

But, Crocker is also the director of the Kearney Symphony Orchestra, otherwise known as KSO. Present in Kearney for over 100 years, open for any Kearney area member and under the direction of many different conductors, the community/university orchestra includes string, wind, brass and percussion musicians.

It’s difficult to say which job is most significant because of the passion that  Crocker shows in all areas of his life.  But as director of the orchestra, audiences are able to see and hear all of his hard work come together.

Crocker began his teaching career at then Kearney State College in 1966 as assistant director of bands and percussion specialist. After three years, he became director of bands for 20 years and is now in his 43rd year at UNK.

As for KSO, Crocker directed for three years during the middle 1990s and has been directing a second time since 2001.

Being in the audience at a KSO concert is unlike anything else in the world, but doesn’t even compare to being onstage. Crocker said, “My favorite part of directing an orchestra is during the concert performance when every element of the music falls into place. The emotional impact on the performers and audience can be very exciting and profound.”

Crocker’s success as a director is apparent to the audience, but also to the orchestra members who he is passionate about. Dr. William Jurma, Dean of Fine Arts and Humanities, said, “The Kearney Symphony Orchestra has had increasing momentum and quality of performance since Crocker became director in 2001. There is a strong link between UNK and Kearney both in the mix of musicians in KSO and in the positive relationship between the orchestra and people who come to concerts from the surrounding area. People look forward to KSO performances.”

David Kelley, a KSO member and one of Crocker’s present students, feels he has been privileged with the chance to get to know Crocker. “Dr. Crocker is such an amazing conductor and gives people that little boost of confidence that helps you when you’re in doubt.” Kelley, a music education major from Gering said. “With the amount of time and effort he puts into everything he does, I just don’t know how he finds time to sleep. Dr. Crocker is basically the J.S. Bach of UNK.”

Crocker, on the other hand, knows the music adds joy to his own life. “The interesting thing about orchestra music is– as is true of all the arts– when a person becomes involved, interest continues to grow to a point that the art becomes a part of one’s identity.  It becomes a fulfilling passion in a person’s life,” Crocker said.

Two to three KSO concerts take place every semester, each with a different theme. The last concert of the season, American Π, will be held Tuesday, April 27, at the UNK Fine Arts Recital Hall at 7:30 pm. And, “as the title implies,” Crocker said, “the concert will feature American composers or music about America.”

If interested in auditioning, contact Dr. Ron Crocker at 865-8386.

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