Harmony through the decades: Rowan’s Centennial Concert celebrates music & memories

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"Welcoming back over 140 alumni playing on stage spanning seven decades, the evening of celebration commenced with an upbeat and jazzy rendition of Bill Zaccagni’s “Too Late… The Mambo” performed by Rowan University and Alumni Jazz Band, under the direction of Denis DiBlasio." - Contributor / Marcus Young.

Both the seats and the stage of Pfleeger Concert Hall shone brightly on Saturday night with joy and elation as alumni and students gathered in honor of Rowan University’s Centennial Concert, presented by the College of Performing Arts. Richard Dammers, the Dean of the College of Performing Arts, welcomed the full house of attendees and introduced the band, orchestra, and choir respectively before their performances. 

“It became pretty clear early on that we would focus on two things that have always been important in our department since our proud first founding as the Glassboro State College Department of Music, and that is our music, and our people,” said Dammers. 

Welcoming back over 140 alumni playing on stage spanning seven decades, the evening of celebration commenced with an upbeat and jazzy rendition of Bill Zaccagni’s “Too Late… The Mambo” performed by Rowan University and Alumni Jazz Band, under the direction of Denis DiBlasio. There was an array of soloists who made their way to the front of the stage, wooing the crowd with their time in the spotlight. 

Rhonda Holland, a 1972 graduate of the university and member of the Advisory Board at the College of Performing Arts, offered a short history and background on just how far the college had come since the days of learning music in the basements of Bunce Hall as the performers transitioned. 

“In Bunce Hall, we had about five practice rooms and six classrooms, and over the years from the mid-1950s until 1972, approximately 200 music teachers were able to graduate from that hallway in the basement of Bunce. So it was a real treasure when this building opened and a great privilege to stand on this stage today,” said Holland. 

Conductor Salvatore Scarpa was next to the stage, conducting the Rowan University and Alumni Symphony Orchestra with vocal stylings by way of the Rowan University and Alumni Concert Choir. “Polovtsian Dances” by Prince Igor opened up their performance, with a harmonic and melodic tune that showcased the range of both the orchestra and choir. Jiannan Cheng, conductor of Rowan’s Symphony Orchestra, performed the next piece with a solo accompaniment by Lauren Athey-Janka, who serves as assistant professor of Voice and Voice Pedagogy at Rowan University. Christopher Thomas, director of the choir, brought their performance home with a cover of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, known otherwise as the Negro National Anthem. 

Following the final intermission of the night, the Rowan University and Alumni Wind Ensemble set up and were welcomed with loads of applause, under the direction of Joseph Higgins. Conductors John Pastin, Bruce Yurko, Megan Cooney, and Joseph Higgins each conducted a song to honor Rowan’s first century in that respective order. The final performance of the night was a selection by Ottorino Respighi titled “Pines of Rome: Pines of the Appian Way”, and certainly fit the occasion to close out what was a night full of outstanding and well-trained musicians who all are proud to call themselves Profs.

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