Where are they now?

Tom Cook graduated from Central in 1969, joining the faculty the following fall. Until 1979, he taught music at Central and was director of many ensembles, including the celebrated CUI Marching Band.

What years were you at Central?
I was a student at Central from 1965-1969, earning a degree in music education. I was then appointed to a one-year, one-third time position as director of the concert, marching and pep bands for the 1969-70 academic year. I then moved through the ranks, eventually becoming an associate professor before leaving in 1979 for the University of Montana.

Where have you been since that time?
I served 15 years on the music faculty at the University of Montana and an additional 10 years as chair of the department of music. I retired from the U of M in the spring of 2004 and returned as interim chair of the department of art for a year and a half and then three years as a special assistant to the dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. I recently returned to Missoula following three academic years as interim chair of the division of fine arts at Friends University in Wichita, Kan.

Any Central faculty or alumni with whom you’ve stayed in touch?
Since leaving, I have kept in fairly good contact with Dr. Davis Folkerts (my mentor, who was music department chair when I taught at Central) and Dr. Raymond Martin (who became a good friend and colleague and played in the Des Moines Symphony when I did). I have remained in consistent contact with Richard Neerhof ’71, although I continue to exchange holiday greetings with several former students.

What made being a part of the mighty CUI Marching Band such a special experience for so many students?
The fact we were one of only two marching bands in the conference at that time (the other being Buena Vista University) was pretty special. Overall, I think attitude, both on my part and that of the students, was probably the biggest factor. We worked hard (never letting the weather stop us), felt valued by the institution and enjoyed the support of a strong football program. We simply had a heckuva good time together! I had a lot of energy and determination, and so did the wonderful students with whom I had the privilege of working. It was a wonderful time in my life!

That said, the most satisfying ensemble for me, and I believe for many of the students, was the Concert Band. Marching bands add a great deal of spirit to campuses and particularly athletic events, but the real MEAT of any band program, where they learn the most and are inspired to make music for music’s sake, takes place in a serious indoor musical ensemble.

What do you hope students gained from your performance groups and classes?
First and foremost, I hope the students gained an understanding of the high level of commitment required of anyone choosing to study music or any of the arts! There can be no doubt, too, that students developed lifelong friendships as a result of participation. Of course, the usual attributes—such as self-discipline, camaraderie and dedication—apply to all aspects of life. But I hope my students gained a deeper understanding of the importance of the arts to our culture and are continuing to appreciate music, dance, theater and the visual arts. The arts make such a difference!

What are your favorite Central memories?
Most important of all, I met my wife, Janie Hemmes Cook ’74, at Central! We will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary this summer and have two wonderful children who have grown to be outstanding adults.

The other memory I wish to share is that my doctoral dissertation is A History of Music at Central College During the Nineteenth Century. It was a satisfying and time-consuming project—one I am proud to have completed.

My years at Central College provided me with many wonderful memories, along with a lifetime partner! In addition, I obtained a solid, basic education upon which I was able to build further studies and completion of degrees on both the master’s and doctoral levels. In the end, I have enjoyed a tremendously gratifying career in the arts, making some great music and learning to become an appreciative consumer of the arts. I’m a lucky guy!!!


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