John Cooper

John Cooper

To John Cooper, helping others appreciate jazz music and the special magic of collective improvisation is what it's all about.

John enjoys playing and teaching Traditional Jazz (he has taught Jazz at the college level for nearly 30 years). He celebrates the genre as an American treasure and works hard to preserve and share it. As a Road Scholar, his goal is to promote and provide a greater understanding and appreciation for Traditional Jazz for Illinois audiences of all ages.


Traditional Jazz: A Historical Perspective of Early Jazz from the New Orleans and Chicago Era

This presentation will engage listeners through playing literature common to the New Orleans Era of Jazz. Musicians will perform in a collective improvisational texture on instruments common to the genre. The audience will engage in lecture material describing the role of each instrument in the ensemble citing notable historical musicians and musical examples. Performers will demonstrate techniques on their instrument that are common to this style. Audience members will be encouraged to ask questions of any of the musicians during the lecture portion of the performance.

Jazz is a music best enjoyed in live performance. Audiences are usually encouraged to applaud soloists and clap rhythmically during performances. In this way, much like dancing, participants feel the music in a very subjective manner. It invades their consciousness and envelopes their soul. It has always been one of the very special elements of Jazz and any understanding of it must come through experiencing the phenomenon. With that connection, the result is pure joy. The presentation seeks to develop this connection with audience members and help them understand the special nature of Jazz.

The presentation also seeks to preserve this great American Musical Cultural Heritage. Through exposing people to the music of this era, the musicians hope to inspire greater interest and thereby preserve it for future generations. Traditional Jazz is timeless, and its appeal can span generations. When audiences can learn a little about how it is made, they can form a deeper appreciation for those historical pioneers and artisans who forged a truly American Musical Tradition.

Program Logistics

The presentation takes approximately 45 minutes, with extra time at the end for Q&A, making it approximately one hour.


Dr. John Cooper is currently faculty Emeritus from Western Illinois University, having spent nearly 30 years teaching jazz at the University level. As Director of Jazz Studies, Cooper has presented more than 300 performances, many featuring guest artists, to enrich the cultural mission of the University and spread the love of jazz to his community. He has taught ensembles, composition, applied jazz, jazz history, and jazz pedagogy.

Cooper has a unique gift for enabling musicians and non-musicians alike to understand the intricacies of jazz, helping them to build pathways for understanding and an intrinsic value for jazz music.

Learn More and Follow John

Book this Road Scholar

Follow the steps below to book a presentation.
  1. Contact John to schedule a date and time via email at or phone at (309) 261-0480.
  2. Once you and John have agreed upon a date and time, complete the online Road Scholars Host Organization application.
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Fairouz AbuGhazaleh
Director of Statewide Programs