WCU’s Free Jazz Concert in November Pays Tribute to Illustrious Alumni

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Criterions Jazz Ensemble
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West Chester University’s Wells School of Music faculty, staff, students, and alumni will come together to pay tribute to one of its most illustrious alumni: arranger, composer, educator, and publisher Robert Harry “Bob” Curnow ’63.

A week-long celebration in honor of Curnow will culminate in a free public concert of the Criterions Jazz Ensemble, conducted by Curnow, on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 PM in the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre at 817 S. High St. Tickets must be reserved at wcupatix.com/schoolofmusic.

The tribute recognizes Bob and Darlene Curnow’s ‘64 recent gift to the Wells School of Music that includes more than 1,000 charts and pieces of music, representing a gift that is valuable historically, educationally, and monetarily. 

Curnow, who currently resides in the state of Washington, is the founder of the very successful Sierra Music Publications. He played, arranged, and produced for the likes of the Stan Kenton Orchestra and others in the 1960’s and 70’s. Curnow had just one request when asked how he wanted to be recognized for his gift.

“I was the student conductor of the Criterions Jazz Ensemble – “Crites” for short – when I attended West Chester University from 1959 – 63,” said Curnow. “When Dean Chris Hanning asked how I would like to be recognized for my gift I knew my answer. I wanted to come ‘home’ to conduct the Crites.”

The concert will feature music from Curnow’s Sierra Music Publications library. Alumnus Matt Gallagher, principal trumpet player for The Philly Pops; acclaimed percussionist John Riley; and faculty member, alumnus, and trumpeter, John Swana are concert guest artists. During the week, Curnow will rehearse with students and moderate a Masterclass.

Curnow’s gifted collection includes 38 boxes full of books on music and arranging from Curnow’s personal collections, more than 1,000 pieces of music that includes scores and parts, reel-to-reel tapes of recordings from past Criterions concerts, 78 RPM records, and personal papers from Sierra Music. 

When he made the gift, Curnow instructed that the collection be used at the discretion of the university with a message that read, “I entrust these things to West Chester University as an expression of my sincere thanks for teaching me and showing me the way forward.”

Director of Jazz Studies Jonathan Ragonese says, “We are deeply grateful and honored that Curnow chose the Wells School of Music to house this valuable collection. The repertoire he is donating represents some of the best big band charts ever written, and now our students and ensembles have open access to them. Our audiences also benefit from Curnow’s gift, and now have the opportunity to hear first-hand a sampling of these masterpieces.”  

Learn more about West Chester University.

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