Blog of Alumni Team

Bill Cooper - alumnus profile

Alumni Team - Posted on 11.03.2020

Alumnus Bill Cooper (Trumpet, 2002), perhaps better known as Billy the Trumpet, recently retired from 16 years of providing the soundtrack to the England cricket team as the Barmy Army’s trumpeter. We caught up with Bill to find out about life with the Barmy Army and what he’ll get up to next.

How did you get involved in the Barmy Army?

I’d saved up with a couple of mates to go to the Caribbean in 2004 to indulge our love of cricket. I had a trumpet with me to practise but unfortunately didn’t get around to doing any!  I lost it in a taxi in Barbados and thought I’d never see it again. Two weeks later, in Antigua, someone was trying to play a trumpet at the cricket, and it turned out to be the very same instrument (a member of the Barmy Army had found it in a taxi!) I went to reclaim it and played a couple of tunes to prove it was mine and the boss of the Barmy Army instantly recruited me and insisted on taking me to South Africa later that year.

What have been your highlights?

Being involved with the 2005 Ashes, culminating in the Trafalgar Square celebrations with the England team in front of 100,000 people, was very special.  Similarly, seeing England win in Australia 2010/11 and the celebrations with the team afterwards. More generally, leaving the English winter behind to travel to some fantastic and diverse (and sunny) places such as New Zealand, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Pakistan has been wonderful. And meeting and getting to know many of my cricketing heroes.  

Besides cricket, what have you been up to since leaving the Academy?

I’ve worked as a classical trumpeter, mainly in London, playing with many orchestras and opera/ballet companies. I also currently have a position in the West End musical Matilda.

Is there anything you learnt at the Academy that has helped you during your time with the Barmy Army?

I had some fantastic trumpet teachers at the Academy, particularly Howard Snell and James Watson, and there are always little words of wisdom from them that come back to me when playing the trumpet doesn’t feel as easy as it should do! There are a lot of strong, interesting characters I’ve been involved with at the cricket and there were certainly plenty of those at the Academy – I can’t help but think my good friend and Academy contemporary, the virtuoso trumpeter Anders Nyqvist, would have fitted in perfectly, if only the Swedish were brought up with cricket! Also, the Barmy Army is the one gig that makes the hours spent drinking in Pat’s bar at the Academy seem like good training!

What are your plans now you’ve retired?

Many of my professional colleagues are enjoying ribbing me about how my retirement is going! I plan to be as busy as possible, playing classically and in the West End. I’ve also got more time to practise now and spend time with the family (my kids are four and two). And I’ll be improving my leg-spin bowling for my cricket team, the Pineapples (skippered by double bass alumnus Roger McCann).

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