Inducted in 2023
Will Cooper served as the Band Director for the Baldwin City, Kansas Public
Schools from 1986-2021 and retired after 35 years of teaching. During his tenure,
the Baldwin Bands consistently earned the highest ratings at state and regional
festivals in concert, jazz and marching band. In addition to the state and local
competitions, the Baldwin High School Band was invited to perform at Walt Disney
World on four different occasions, and the band also participated in the Winter
Park Music Festival several times-each time winning their division.
Throughout Cooper's career, he was dedicated to the work of the Kansas Music
Educators Association and to the Kansas Bandmasters Association. He focused on
engaging others in the promotion of music advocacy through his service as
President of the "old" KMEA Northeast District in 2002 and as the 2018 inaugural
President of the "new" KMEA Northeast District. As a KMEA member, Cooper also
hosted district auditions for over 20 years, served on the Festival Committee, and
served on the Required Music List Committee. Cooper's involvement with the
Kansas Bandmasters Association had him serving in various capacities with the
state board, including holding the office of KBA President from 1997-1999. He
also served as the President of the honorary band fraternity Phi Beta Mu.
Cooper's stewardship in the music industry reaches beyond the public school
setting. Cooper ensured students had enrichment opportunities, serving as the
Assistant Band Director of the Kansas Lions State Band six times and as the Tour
Director of the Kansas Ambassadors of Music European Tour. Cooper also
extended his music education outreach to the university level, having taught
applied trumpet at Baker University for a decade.
Cooper was recognized many times in his career for his excellence as a music
educator. He was awarded the "Outstanding Elementary Band Teacher of the
Year" and the "Outstanding High School Band Teacher of the Year" from the KMEA
Northeast District. Additionally, Cooper was selected as the 2017 "Excellence in
Education" award winner from the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce, and in
2003, the Kansas State Department of Education recognized him as a "Kansas
Teacher of the Year" nominee.
Being an active musician was important to Cooper. He performed regularly in the
northeast Kansas area, performing with many ensembles including the Free State
Brass Band, the DeSoto Brass Band, the Lawrence City Band, the New Horizons
Concert Band, and the Crossroads Wind Symphony. He held the principal trumpet
chair with the Topeka Symphony Orchestra for over 40 seasons. Cooper earned
degrees from the University of Kansas (BME) and Kansas State University (MME).