Dr. Ron Crocker
Kearney Symphony Orchestra director, 308.865.8618

The University of Nebraska at Kearney Department of Music and Performing Arts will present two awards during the annual Gary Thomas Distinguished Alumni Award Luncheon on the campus Friday, Sept. 23.

Receiving recognition will be Todd Thalken of Kearney and Dr. Neal Schnoor of Wayne. Thalken will receive the Gary Thomas Distinguished Alumni Award, and Dr. Schnoor, the Ronald J. Crocker Pride of the Plains Band Distinguished Service Award.

The Gary Thomas Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 1997 to recognize UNK, Kearney State College or Kearney State Teachers College graduates who have made significant contributions in music. The award is presented each fall semester during UNK Homecoming activities. The Ronald J. Crocker Pride of the Plains Band Distinguished Service Award was established in 2002, with Dr. Ron Crocker as the first recipient. The award was established to annually recognize Kearney area recipients who have provided significant service to music, music education, students and educators.

Thalken, who performs extensively as a jazz pianist in the Kearney area, is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Music and Performing Arts this fall. Thalken regularly accompanies a number of UNK voice students. He and his wife Lois, who is also a UNK graduate, own and operate Kearney Floral. In May, Thalken was honored with the UNK Ron and Carol Cope Cornerstone of Excellence Award during UNK commencement ceremonies.

In presenting the award, UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said: “Both personally and professionally, Todd has been a faithful and loyal supporter of the university and its students.” Thalken, who was described as “…a particularly strong advocate for the College of Fine Arts and Humanities,” is a 1980 UNK graduate with a degree in music performance.

Thalken has recorded for the Musical Theatre Showcase in Grand Island, Omaha and Chicago. He and his wife also perform in the jazz trio Thalken-Tesdall-Thalken. In 2007, the Thalkens received the Kearney Hub Freedom Award for sharing their musical talents at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

Dr. Schnoor, who is dean of the School of Education and Counseling at Wayne State College, is a former director of bands and coordinator of K-12/secondary education at UNK. Bands under his direction traveled internationally, were recognized regionally and selected to perform on state conference programs. Dr. Schnoor has published articles in several state and national journals, and has presented papers at state, national and international music and education conferences. Further, he is past president of the Nebraska Music Educators Association and the Nebraska Bandmasters Association.

The luncheon is set for 11:30 a.m. in the Cedar Room of the Nebraskan Student Union.