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Workman Makes Musical Mark as Pep Band Student Conductor

pictureBIG RAPIDS - Jason Workman remembers his first musical audition at Ferris State University for Music Center associate professor Dr. Richard Scott Cohen: “It was informal, and he asked me to play my scales. I knew the notes, I just didn’t know the scales,” he says.

“I still remember what Dr. Cohen said, ‘Well, you’re a diamond in the rough. We’ll see what you can do.’ The funny thing is I still don’t know my scales,” Workman quips.

The Bridgman, Mich., senior may not know his warm-up scales but he has made a mark on Ferris’ musical landscape.

He’s performed eight semesters with the Ferris Symphony Band and played four years with the Pep Band, the last two of which he served as student conductor.

As student conductor of the Pep Band, Workman set the bar high for future conductors.

A typical student conductor takes the reins of Pep Band leadership in their last year of school, but Workman is anything but typical. He applied for the post as a freshman and eventually filled the role as a junior. But, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Especially considering his first audition for student conductor didn’t go as well as one would want, Music Center faculty Dale Skornia notes.

Workman remembers this audition as a scary moment for him, as a freshman applying to become student conductor. “Some of the kids were 24 or 25…I was just 18 years old at the time. I didn’t command the respect with them an older student might.”

But, with a little hard work, and a can-do attitude in tow, Workman ultimately gained the respect of his bandmates, peers and sports fans.

“Even from his first audition for student conductor to his second, I was amazed at his immediate growth. It’s wonderful to see how Jason has grown as a person during the past four years,” Skornia adds.

Seeing his students’ growth as they prepare to graduate is bitter sweet for Skornia, who notes students graduating this May arrived at Ferris four years ago just as he did. They grew from the Ferris experience together, he says.

It’s seeing the growth in Workman that gave Skornia complete trust in him to run rehearsal, and make logical musical and educational decisions.

Despite parting with the bar set high, Workman is leaving no stone unturned before graduating. He’s already spent time working with the next student conductor.

His words of advice: “Don’t wait until the end of the year to try new things with the band. Know in the end you’ll be appreciated for what you do. Don’t dwell on the small stuff. Don’t underestimate what you do.”

And, if there’s one piece of advice he can give to incoming freshmen, it’s to hit the ground running once they arrive at Ferris.

“You go through your four years before you know it,” he says. “People say they don’t want to be too busy. Well, I don’t think that’s a legitimate reason not to be a part of something.

“Find out what you’re good at and an organization you want to devote your time to and make it work,” he states.

So, what’s next for the Biotechnology major? Workman plans to gain experience in the workforce as a laboratory technician or research assistant prior to applying to graduate school. Eventually, he hopes to earn a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and work as principle investigator in a laboratory or as a professor.