Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Gurke shares passion for music

    Laney professor brings music to students and community

    For Laney College professor Charlie Gurke, music is more than just a subject of study. It’s a way of sharing energy and creativity with those around you. It’s a lifelong passion, and something Gurke has been drawn to since an early age.
    “I started playing the saxophone when I was ten or eleven,” he said. “By the time I was in high school I was pretty sure I wanted to pursue music as some kind of a career.”
    Gurke followed through with these plans, leaving his native Bay Area to study in New York after completing high school. He would later return to get his bachelor’s degree in music from CSU East Bay and his master’s in Jazz Studies from University of Oregon before beginning teaching at Laney.
    “For me it’s part teaching and part personal research,” Gurke explained when asked about being a music professor. “I get to spend a lot of time with something I love and something I would spend time with anyway.”Charlie GurkeGurke instructs members of the Laney Orchestra in preparation for their December 9 performance.[/caption]Gurke isn’t the only one who enjoys coming to class. His students are also passionate and energetic when it comes to playing music. “Pretty much everybody who comes to my classes do so because they want to be there. They’re not there to satisfy a requirement,” he said.
    This attitude creates a different feeling in the classroom. As Gurke put it, “It makes the overall environment positive. Regardless of their skill level they bring a good attitude.”
    Gurke teaches a variety of music and band classes at Laney, but his specialization both in teaching and performing is jazz. 
    “My favorite thing to perform is Jazz,” Said Gurke, who went on discuss the improvisational element of the genre. The freeform approach so common in jazz “provides an opportunity for the most
    creative expression” and gives artists more room to experiment with and shape their sound, even while performing. 
    This freedom is what Gurke appreciates most about the style, stating “improvisation is personally what I enjoy; most jazz offers a range of freedom.”
    Though he harbors a special appreciation for Jazz, he said Latin music was “a close tie” for favorite genre. “I’ve been playing Latin music for a long time, almost as long as I’ve been playing jazz,” he said.
    In performing, Gurke doesn’t limit himself. Since his early years he has played a broad spectrum of styles. He brings this diverse experience to both the classroom and the stage.
    He also shares his music through composing, not only pieces to be played by the various groups he performs with, but also writing musical scores for theater.
    In 2010 Gurke began working with the San Francisco-based We Players theater group as a music director. The opportunity “came through friends and artists who had been working with that theater company,” said Gurke, who approached the company and offered to work with them. “I had a friend who had done music for them on previous productions, like “Macbeth,” and I knew he wasn’t going to be working with them again. So I said ‘if you need somebody, I’m going to be available.’”
    Since then he has worked with the company on most of their productions. 
    This experience helped lead Gurke to work with Michael Torres and the Laney Theater Department on an upcoming student production. The piece is being written and developed by Torres and his students and will be finished this spring. 
    “I’m just helping out with the music,” Gurke said. “That’s been fun.”
    As a member of several musical groups, including the Bay Area Composers Big Band, Gurkesta, and Candela, Gurke can be found performing across the Bay Area as well as here on campus.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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