Barry Cooper – band leader, saxophonist
Barry blames his musical career on the new millennium. As the year 2000 dawned, he made a decision to stop envying people who played musical instruments, and join them instead.
So he bought himself a Yamaha student alto saxophone and booked lessons with his first teacher Dave Murphy, starting on page 1 of Learn As You Play by Peter Wastall. And so the fun had begun.
Growing up in Swindon, Barry attended the local grammar school. He was drawn to trad jazz, popular in local dance halls at the time hearing big names like Kenny Ball, Chris Barber and Acker Bilk. He recalls also enjoying the jazz guests on Michael Parkinson’s chat show especially Jacques Loussier but admits his interest in jazz was peripheral until he bought that first saxophone decades later.
Workwise, Barry’s first ever job was as a butcher’s boy but after gaining a degree in Metallurgy at Imperial College, where he met his wife Jill, Barry enjoyed a long career as a science teacher. So the music became part of his retirement plan.
As he became more and more proficient on the sax, Barry couldn’t wait to play jazz with others and thoroughly enjoys the buzz of playing in front of an audience. As well as playing with and leading the Totnes Jazz Workshop, Barry also plays with various local bands and is happy to play ‘with anyone who will have me.’
Although he doesn’t have a favourite album, Water from an Ancient Well by Abdullah Ibrahim is the most played and played along with!
Musical ambitions include playing more, better and off the dots. Musical regrets including not learning the piano, or another chord playing instrument, plus perhaps adding bass and trombone as they’re often in short supply.
Sadly Barry and Jill’s daughters were not enthusiastic musicians, partly because Barry says he couldn’t offer them much leadership at the time. But there is hope on the Cooper musical horizon – one of his grandsons is currently mastering the alto sax.
Not a lot of people know this, but Barry cooks a mean Sunday roast. Maybe that job as a butcher’s boy came in useful after all!
And if he’s not slaving over a hot stove, he might just be out sailing or helping with sailing charities Dart Sailability at Noss-on-Dart and the Disabled Sailing Association.