Jean and Warren Cook: Serving, Impacting and Retiring ‘on Beat’

by   |   kallweil@bju.edu   |  
Warren and Jean Cook

Sound recording technician. Piano teacher. Vespers music supervisor. Stage crew. Choir accompanist. Division of Music faculty. Director of choral activities. What do these all have in common? They are all positions that Warren and Jean Cook have held at BJU.

The Cooks have served a combined total of over 85 years. With the number of students who came through their choirs, few faculty members have touched as many lives.

Don’t miss the Cooks’ farewell concert at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 23. Tickets are available online.

Coming to BJU

Warren and Jean came to BJU as students in the early ’70s. Warren had been told by his mother since he was 3 years old that he was coming to BJU. She would regularly listen to Oliver Greene’s The Gospel Hour radio broadcasts during which he would promote BJU. Warren said, “She had a Scolfield Bible with my name in it, and said, ‘When you go to Bob Jones you can have that,’ and she started saying that when I was 3.”

Jean, on the other hand, had an unexpected introduction to the University. “My unsaved dad thought it would be a good idea,” she said with a chuckle.

Her father, a middle-school principal, researched the University to provide a graduate school reference for one of his teachers who was a BJU graduate. As a result, he requested that BJU send Jean an information packet. When it arrived, Jean said her father told her, “Look at it. I think you might like it.” She liked it so well, she stayed 45 years after she graduated.

Read how Jean and Warren met in this BJUtoday article.

Serving Together

Jean and Warren Cook being goofy at the piano

Jean and Warren were married in 1978 after Jean graduated with her master’s degree in piano and Warren graduated with his bachelor’s degree in music education. Jean was offered the position of pre-college piano program director and began accompanying Warren’s church choir. Warren, meanwhile, began work on his master’s degree in sacred music.

In 1980, Dr. Gustafson asked Warren to join the audio staff in the recording studio. For the next three years, God guided Warren by using a series of requests.

Warren recalled, “I did that and then Dr. Gustafson said, ‘How about supervising Vespers music while you’re doing that?’ I said, ‘Sure,’ and they said, ‘How about teaching this conducting class while this teacher is on leave?’ and I said, ‘Sure.’ And then they said, ‘He’s not coming back. How about joining full time?’ and I said, ‘Sure.’”

The Cooks have served together from the beginning, from having side-by-side studios to eating lunch together every day to leading choirs as a team. The couple plans to continue to serve using their talents in the local church and in the community through Rivertree Singers.

Leaving a Legacy

When asked what their favorite aspect of teaching at BJU has been, Warren replied, “Being around the people, students, colleagues.”

Jean added, “The students are so energizing. They bring youth and vitality and vigor and sometimes zaniness and optimism to your life every single year, every single semester.”

“And then you get to start over every year. Try this again. A fresh start every 12 months. That’s an awesome thing,” said Warren.

Not only do the Cooks love their students and colleagues, but that love is returned.

Senior voice performance student Joy Herr said, “What I have appreciated most about being under the baton of Dr. Cook and the accompaniment of Mrs. Cook is watching them work together as a team to lead us in music and always have a fun time while doing it. Chorale has been one of my favorite things about undergrad.”

“There are so many things I appreciate about the Cooks and their impact on my life, but I think what I’ve appreciated out of anything has been their joy in investing in the lives of so many students,”added graduate student Trevin Ascher. “They really have a heart for students to sing with understanding and excellence, and I have benefited greatly from their lives.”

Dr. Michael Moore, chair of the Division of Music, said, “I’m grateful to be one among thousands Warren and Jean have impacted over the years through their artistry, kindness and commitment to Christ. Thanks to Warren’s vision and leadership, the BJU choral program is ideally positioned to continue the tradition of excellence for which our choirs are recognized around the world.”

“What a joy it has been to work alongside Warren Cook in the BJU Choral Department,” said associate director of choral activities Dr. Pattye Casarow, who has taught and conducted alongside the Cooks for five years. “He wonderfully combines a mastery of the choral art while living out the fruit of the Spirit. His keen ear and quick mind can transform a choir from average to sublime. His gracious spirit and clever sense of humor enriches every choral experience. He and Jean make a musical dream team. They will be greatly missed, but we rejoice in their faithful and loving dedication to the ministry of music, both at BJU and the local church.”

Said Dr. Darren Lawson, dean of the School of Fine Arts and Communication: “Warren and Jean Cook have been a power couple in the ministry here, touching literally thousands of students over their years of service to BJU. Their students have gone on to replicate excellence for the glory of God that they learned from the Cooks. We praise God for their faithfulness and dedication to the mission of BJU.”

The Cooks also had the unique opportunity to work with one of their children. “Growing up at BJU and having my parents as my teachers was an immense privilege,” said Laura Brundage, Division of Music faculty and the Cooks’ daughter. “I have so many memories of hours spent in the FA building, at rehearsals, attending concerts and shows and even getting to be involved in productions and concerts. Being in the classroom under my parents was an amazing experience. I grew up hearing stories about college students and their classes, and then I got to be there. We had lots of inside jokes and many happy memories from my college days.

“Coming on faculty as their colleague in 2007 was a dream come true. I knew I wanted to stay at BJU, so when a position on the music faculty became available the year I graduated, I was elated.

“I cherish the 14 years I spent working with my dad in the choral department. We have worked on so many projects together, travelled together, sat in faculty meetings together year after year. I am going to miss them immensely. They weren’t just my parents or my teachers. They are my friends. I’m privileged to be their daughter and so thankful for the time I had to work alongside both of them.”

Want to learn more about the Cooks’ time at BJU? Listen to their interview with BJU President Steve Pettit on the Highest Potential podcast.

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