Dr. Ron Crocker
Kearney Symphony Orchestra director, 308.865.8618

As he describes it, Dr. Ron Crocker will “pass the baton” at the Kearney Symphony Orchestra (KSO) concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, at the Merryman Performing Arts Center.

The concert, titled “Finale-Fine,” will be the culmination of Dr. Crocker’s career of more than 40 years as a conductor, 13 of which as the KSO conductor.

“There are few things in life more interesting, exciting and fun than standing in front of a group of musicians, instruments in hand, waiving your arms and having everyone play the right notes at exactly the right time,” Dr. Crocker said.
The performance will open with Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” Among the other works being performed are “Second Suit in F,” “Triumphant March and Ballet” from “Aida,” “Four Dance Episodes” from “Rodeo” and “A Set of Four Laments,” which have been adapted for orchestra by Dr. Crocker. Featured performers, all UNK faculty members, will include Dr. Ting-Lan Chen, violin; Franziska Nabb, flute; and Dr. Noah Rogoff, cello.

“This concert includes many of the things I’ve wanted to do, but haven’t gotten done,” he said.

In his program notes, he observes: “When I began conducting the orchestra the first time around, I could spell violin, but that was about it. For a year or two after I began, Bettelee Lewis, my favorite orchestra mentor and a player in the KSO cello section, would say after each concert, ‘Ron, you make the orchestra sound just like a band,’ and she was right. But, little by little, we began to sound more like the ensemble we were meant to be, and I began to think and direct more like an orchestra conductor.”

In 2010, a $500,000 permanently endowed chair was established in his honor in the UNK Department of Music. The chair was named the Ronald J. Crocker Chair in Orchestra, and Dr. Crocker is the first UNK faculty member to hold the chair created in his name.

“As the orchestra has grown and prospered, not enough can be said about the profound influence the KSO Board of Directors, both past and present, has had,” Dr. Crocker said. “We are blessed with a group of dedicated performers, community members, students and faculty, who remain willing to give their time and talent to make KSO a point of cultural pride for the community and the region.” Today, the orchestra is comprised of more than 70 members of all ages.

“As we look forward to the arrival on campus of the new KSO director, it is my hope that the present status of the orchestra is but a steppingstone toward an even more accomplished and vibrant community-based performance ensemble,” he said.

General admission tickets are $10 for the general public, and free for UNK students and faculty. Reservations can be made by contacting the UNK Box Office at 308.865.8417 from 12:30-5 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased one hour before the performance
at the Merryman or, in advance, by email: boxoffice@unk.edu.

Dr. Crocker has been an active Nebraska music educator for more than three decades. In addition, he is an active composer, director, performer and clinician. From 1994 to 2004, he chaired the UNK Department of Music and Performing Arts. As a promoter of music education in Nebraska and throughout the country, Dr. Crocker has been a guest clinician for more than 300 concert band, jazz band and percussion clinics. He has also served as an adjudicator for hundreds of music contests.

In 1964, Dr. Crocker earned a bachelor of music education degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University and taught at Ceresco and Mead high schools. He went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Iowa, and joined the UNK music faculty as assistant director of bands and percussion specialist. He was later appointed director of bands and remained in that position for 20 years. He earned his doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado. Dr. Crocker has been conducting various band ensembles for more than 40 years.

Among the awards that Dr. Crocker has received for excellence in teaching and service are as follows: Outstanding College Professor Award presented by Mu Epsilon Nu, professional education honor society; Outstanding Young Educator Award, presented to him twice by the Kearney Area Jaycees; The Distinguished Service Award, presented by the UNK Council of Deans; The Pratt Heins Service Award; and the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association Distinguished Service Award.

Beginning next fall, Dr. Crocker will serve as the interim chair of the Department of Music and Performing Arts while continuing as associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Humanities. He will also continue as interim director of theatre.