Arts & Entertainment

West Orange High School Welcomes First Composer-in-Residence

"America the Beautiful" Finale at the West Orange High School spring band concert Credits: Cynthia Cumming
Josh Zimmer, Erin Lagatic, Bruce Yurko, and Lew Kelly with the WOHS Wind Ensemble Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ — For the first time ever, West Orange High School (WOHS) has a Composer-in-Residence, a program that invites an esteemed composer to work with students and affords students a unique opportunity to rehearse music with a new teacher, and learn about the music through the compositional perspective.

Bruce Yurko, the WOHS Composer-in-Residence, has worked with all facets of the high school band program and recently led them in his own compositions at the annual spring band concert.

After the high school band directors reached out to Yurko in the fall of 2016, the WOHS Music Boosters funded Yurko's residency, which the music program hopes to continue.

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Over the winter, each of the WOHS ensembles began working on Yurko’s music, and Yurko began visiting the high school about once a week from March on to rehearse with the bands and give feedback. Symphonic Winds and Wind Ensemble had both performed Yurko’s music previously at the Metropolitan Wind Band Invitational at Roxbury High School earlier in the year.

The Ninth Grade Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Winds, and Wind Ensembles all performed with Yurko and their instructors. Graduating seniors were recognized within each group, and the Grand Finale, "America the Beautiful," was performed by all students, ending another successful music season.

Yurko praised the school district for supporting music programs at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

About Bruce Yurko:

Yurko received his Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Wilkes College and his Masters in Performance from the Ithaca College School of Music. While attending Wilkes College, he studied horn with Douglas Hill and corresponded with Vincent Persichetti. At Ithaca College he studied conducting with Thomas Michalik, horn with Jack Covert and composition with Karel Husa.

From 1974-198, Yurko was the director of bands at Madison High School, and was the conductor of the Wind Ensemble, Orchestra and Chamber Music program at Cherry Hill High School East from 1981-2005. From 2000-2005, Yurko was the conductor of the Princeton University Wind Ensemble.

Yurko has guest-conducted New Jersey's three Regional Honor Wind Ensembles as well as the New Jersey All State Wind Ensemble and All-State Symphony Band. He has also guest conducted in Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Texas. Yurko has attended conducting workshops and has studied with Frederick Fennell, Donald Hunsberger, H. Robert Reynolds and Eugene Migliaro Corporon.

In 1990, the National Band Association awarded him and the Cherry Hill High School East Wind Ensemble the "Citation of Excellence."

Since September of 2008, Yurko has been appointed Adjunct Professor of Music at Messiah College and Rowan University. Current Wind Ensemble compositions have been commissioned by the Messiah College Wind Ensemble for William Stowman and Rebecca Wilt, the South Carolina All State Band, The United States Air Force Band, the Westfield Community Band, the Roxbury High School Freshman Concert Band and the Eastman Wind Ensemble. Ludwig/Kalmus Music, Southern Music, C.Alan Publications, and Maestro and Fox Music publish Mr. Yurko’s compositions. The United States Air Force Band, Col. Larry H. Lang, Conductor, have released "Air Force Blue" on the Naxos Wind Band Classics label featuring "Red Tail Skirmish."

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