Blue Dot
Graham Wilson
Graham Wilson 1994 - present

Joining West Bergholt Concert Band as a twelve year old clarinettist turned out to be a life-changing moment…I certainly never expected to be with the band 40 years later, or to end up conducting it for the last 28 years, 25 of them as sole conductor. I joined the band, as did most people in those days, via the band's founder, the late Sid Cooper. As one of Essex's principle peripatetic music teachers, Sid taught & inspired a whole generation of young musicians, including me, my brother, my sister, my wife, and innumerable past & present members of the band. When he died suddenly at the start of 1990, the loss to the band & its members was immeasurable, but we all felt we owed it to Sid to keep the band running, and to keep it true to his vision.
As lead clarinettist & occasional conductor during Sid's reign, my brother Jeff was the natural choice to take over the band. He guided it through an emotional memorial concert at the Westcliff Theatre in Clacton, and continued as principle conductor for five years until the pressures of work meant he had to step down, and I had to step up from deputy conductor to take the baton full time.

My initial challenge as conductor was to step up the band's recruitment activities to ensure we replaced those members that had played under Sid & Jeff but were about to leave for University. As well as running the band, I was also teaching at the Music School where Sid taught me, so I took a leaf out of his book and dragged all the youngsters I was teaching along to the band…as well as some old friends of mine.

Having revitalised the band's membership, we took on the challenge of doubling the number of concerts we performed annually, and using the band's skills to raise money for charity. The last 10 years have been the band's busiest & most successful ever, with concerts in some of the best local venues, and at a performance level that enthralls audiences. We're continuing to raise literally thousands of pounds for charities each year, and an ex-member who heard the band at a recent concert commented "I've never heard the band sound so good".

Writing this article has involved reminiscing on both the happy & sad times I've had with the band, but it's also made me realise how far the band has come, and what an exciting future it has. The depth of enjoyment & energy within the band makes it truly unique, and an honor to conduct.

Blue Dot
Jeff Wilson
Jeff Wilson1990 - 1994

During the years Sid ran the band, he encouraged most of his pupils to join the band…one of the earliest being the band’s second Conductor Jeff.

Seeing the band perform a concert at Jeff’s junior school was the final trigger for Jeff to join, so in 1980 he joined on Clarinet, eventually rising through the ranks to principal Clarinettist.

Traditionally that role acts as the assistant conductor, so Jeff conducted the band on occasions when Sid wasn’t available, or when Sid just wanted to have a play.

As a result of that, Jeff was the natural & unanimous choice to take over the baton following Sid’s sudden passing, once the band had decided it wanted to carry on rather than stopping.

Having conducted the band for a number of years, pressures of work plus the commute from London made it increasingly difficult for Jeff to continue to conduct the band, so he gradually stepped back from conducting.

However – he still plays with the band regularly, and occasionally conducts rehearsals when Graham isn’t available.
Blue Dot
Sid Cooper

Sid Cooper1977 - 1989

The man who founded the band was a hugely inspirational and much loved peripatetic music teacher who worked across Essex for almost 20 years. Having left the Army in 1971 after 26 years, his teaching career started in 1972, and he soon got the itch to form his own band. In 1977, having found some old instruments under the stage at West Bergholt’s village hall, the West Bergholt Band was formed.

Sid suddenly passed way in January 1990 at Clacton’s West Cliff Theatre, leaving the band members and everyone he taught totally devastated. The concert he’d planned for March 1990 at the same venue became his memorial concert, with a sell-out audience witnessing an emotional band play tribute to him.

More about Sid…

Sid Cooper was born in India, and started to play the bugle at the age of 9, and subsequently learnt to play all brass & woodwind instruments, as well as percussion.  

He had a long and distinguished career in the British Military, initially serving as a bandsman for the Royal Berkshire Regiment, where he played flute and piccolo, and he also studied at Kneller Hall for a year. Whilst serving as Colour Sergeant and Drum Major of  the 1st Battalion The Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment, Sid wrote a march “V-P“ after the Adjutant responsible for the Battalion’s Corps of Drums. The march was performed to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1968, the year that the Duke presented  Sid with a long service and good conduct medal.

Sid was also an outsanding all round sportsman, representing the Army at Baskeyball, Water Polo and Hockey (a particular favourite, but which left him with a flattened index finger). His sporting prowess led to him being the only member of is battalion allowed to wear the China dragon on his Tracksuit.