University Relations and Communications

Striking the Right Chords

September 28, 2009



Dorothea Cromley, Music Department, 657-2350
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Committed to following his passion, MSU Billings senior set to perform with Billings Symphony on Oct. 10


""MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Jason Suchan’s first encounter with a piano was one of those moments that seem destined for a Hollywood screenplay: The precocious youngster with a gift for music… a resurrected player piano… the subsequent ignition of his passion.


Yet the Montana State University Billings senior’s story is far from over. His true-life story is still unfolding and the next stanza features the Billings Symphony Orchestra.


Suchan will appear as the guest soloist with the BSO for the Saturday, Oct. 10 “Bright Lights & Rising Stars” concert at Alberta Bair Theater. Concert time is 7:30 p.m. Seats are still available and MSU Billings students can get seats at half-price with a valid student ID.


This will be Suchan’s first appearance with the orchestra as a featured soloist, but the story arc follows what has turned into a continued passion for music and the arts.


According to Suchan, it all started with an old player piano that his father had purchased. He was about four years old and the old upright piano was sitting in the basement of the family home. One afternoon, as he ventured downstairs to check things out, a dust-speckled beam of sunlight beckoned him toward the instrument for a closer look. He liked the feel of it, and the sounds that came from it.


He was hooked.


Soon he was taking piano lessons from his grandmother and getting involved in band in school. He became accomplished on the trumpet and trombone. He was an accomplished performer through high school and when he graduated from Billings West High School in 2005, he set his sights on studying with Dorothea Cromley at MSU Billings.


“I’ve always been interested in the piano,” said Suchan, whose soft-spoken nature and easy smile belie the fiery passion that comes out in his performances. “But I really got serious about the piano when I got here.”


These days, he’s seriously committed to his Oct. 10 performance. He’ll play Liszt’s “Piano Concerto No. 1,” which has its share of flash, fervor and delicate interludes.


“I’m real excited to work with Anne (BSO director Anne Harrigan),” Suchan said. “I want the performance to be really good.”


Cromley, who has worked with some of the most talented young pianists in Montana over her career, said she has appreciated Suchan’s commitment to following his passion, especially in a state that has so few male role models as budding artists.


He’s had his share of “normal” college challenges over his career. Both laugh at the first time he neglected to attend a music theory class. Late hours working to load planes at the airport and extra sleep caused the misstep, but that was the last time.


“Young men in the arts are so rare here,” said Cromley. “Finding someone like Jason who is so normal and who loves the arts is amazing.”


Just as important, Cromley said, is the message Jason’s success poses for music education in public schools.


“I just want to show our public schools ‘Look what you did with Jason!’ It’s phenomenal,” she said.


A piano performance major who will graduate in May 2010 and has his sights set on graduate education, Suchan said he encourages young musicians to persevere in their studies. Frustrations are normal, he said, but in the end, the pursuit of your passion pays off.

“I think it’s really important to do what you love,” he said.


To find out more about the Billings Symphony Orchestra’s “Bright Lights & Rising Stars” concert, go to To find out more about the music education program at MSU Billings, call 657-2350.


PHOTO ABOVE: Dorothea Cromley, left, professor of music at Montana State University Billings, has been working with Jason Suchan since he arrived at the university as a freshman out of Billings West High School in 2005. On Oct. 10, Suchan will be the featured piano soloist at the “Bright Lights & Rising Stars” concert presented by the Billings Symphony Orchestra.


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