Bruce Yurko conducts Rowan Wind Ensemble

This article was published at on Oct. 20, 2013.

After 15 years of conducting the Rowan Wind Ensemble, John Pastin, the dean of performing arts, passed the duty along to someone else, placing it gently in the hands of nationally known New Jersey conductor, Bruce Yurko.

Yurko, who has taught the wind ensemble for 32 years at Cherry Hill High School East and West, as well as Madison High School, and teaches composition at Rowan, was asked by Pastin to take his spot in directing the group in September. On the night of Oct. 17 at Pfleeger Concert Hall, Yurko led the Rowan Wind Ensemble for the first time during the first concert of the year.

“They’re great musicians,” Yurko said of the students who make up the wind ensemble. “They’re very receptive to new things and it’s been a total joy.”

Pastin started the wind ensemble at Rowan in 1998 and has since led many performances of different repertoires. Having been the founder of the wind ensemble, it was difficult for Pastin to let someone else conduct the group for the first time.

“It wasn’t an easy thing for me to do,” Pastin said. “As a matter of fact, it was difficult for me to even walk close to the rehearsal room because I’ve been with these folks for 15 years. It’s not easy to just turn around and walk away, but if I’m going to turn it over to someone, it’s going to be someone like Bruce Yurko.”

For three years, senior music education major Christina Raczka played with the wind ensemble with Pastin as the conductor. When comparing her time with both Pastin and Yurko, she says that Pastin’s conducting style shows that he has had a lot of training but she likes Yurko’s rehearsing techniques and his ability to focus on the parts that the band needs to work on.

“They both have their strengths,” Raczka said. “Bruce is trying to get a feel for the ensemble so this concert is a bit easier than the music we’re used to but I think it’s good because it’s helped us to really grow as an ensemble in the beginning. Pastin will usually hit the ground running with some hard stuff so I think they’re both good in their own ways but I think we’re really going to come together this year as an ensemble. I think [Yurko is] planning on challenging us more throughout the year.”

Senior electrical and computer engineering major Christopher Cullen has only experienced Yurko’s conducting styles in the wind ensemble and appreciates his knowledge of and passion for the subject matter.

“[Yurko is] awesome,” Cullen said. “He totally gets into it and he’s just real easy to follow. He just has this energy and he knows a lot about what he’s doing and it conveys in how the wind ensemble sounds.”

After the concert, Yurko said he was very pleased with how the students performed.

“I thought it was great, it was outstanding,” Yurko said. “I told them we’re here to play the soul of the composer and they did just that. They played every composer’s style and it was just perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better than what they just did. They made music.”