“Scouts left me with a set of life tools that I carried forward and
have applied to many situations in my personal and working life.”
- Ian Cooper
Virtuoso Ian Cooper is one of Australia’s most intriguing and versatile violin acts, renowned in Australia and internationally for his incredible repertoire. Whether it’s classical Mozart, entertaining cabaret, a passionate performance of gypsy music to his signature Jazz, Ian always has a story to tell.
Born into a family of classical musicians, Ian began playing the violin at the age of four. His live television debut was at age five where he performed the Seitz violin concerto. As a six-year-old he debuted at the Sydney Opera House and began his world travels, wowing audiences as a child star in the U.S.A. and Canada before performing in Britain, Europe and in Japan on their NHK television network. Ian was one of Australia’s youngest musicians to receive a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at age eight, and at age 12 he performed with the Vienna Boys Choir in their home town.
Somehow, during all of this, he managed to find time for Scouts!
“I first joined 1st Narrabeen Cubs in 1978 when I was age seven. Being the child of two musical parents my spare time was completely taken up with violin lessons, choir practice, band practice, youth orchestra rehearsals and competing in musical eisteddfods. Cubs was the only thing in my life that did not involve music, and frankly, it was Heaven,” Ian said.
“My father had gone through Cubs and Scouts so it was inevitable that I would too. Father and son camps were always fun and I remember many of them at Cattai. I was a bit of a prankster and enjoyed wreaking havoc in other Troops' camps at Jamborees as well. A can of peas buried in a camp fire was always a crowd pleaser!
“In the team games against the dads, us Scouts considered ourselves young and fit, and always thought we had it over them. But what's that saying? ‘Old age and cunning will overcome youth and skill.’ That was often correct.”
Ian, aged 7, making pikelets at home for his cooking badge. "I don't seem to have many badges
on my sleeves so it must have been when I'd just joined. My mum still has that apron too."
Ian’s favourite things about Scouts were getting away from music (and his Mum and Dad!) for a few hours each week, and being given a bit of independence and decision making.
“The physical and practical challenges were especially rewarding for me as well, because my engineer father often helped me build stuff in his home workshop, and at Scouts I considered myself pretty capable when it came to improvising solutions to problems. I felt a bit like MacGyver but without the explosives,” Ian said.
“My parents were often scared of me injuring my precious violin hands. In all my years in Cubs and Scouts I never once had an injury. Instead, I broke a finger when I was 14 on a tennis court at school.”
Ian believes that many of the lessons he learnt as a Scout have stayed with him for life.
“The key tools for me were leadership skills, a knowledge of knots (I enjoy sailing and own a small yacht, and the bowline which I learnt in Scouts is a knot I use every day on the boat), first aid, and a whole list of non specific but practical hands on skills. I recently had to move something heavy in my garden so I used a rope and pulley just like we used to move logs at camp, rather than risk a back injury.
“There also seemed to be a whole lot of mentoring going on as I came up through the ranks, although it was never mentioned at the time. The example the older guys set for the younger, impressionable ones played a very important role. When I attained the rank of PL, I already had an idea of the example I was expected to set. In leading my patrol I liked to identify each member's strengths, delegate tasks, and get the best out of the patrol as a team. People skills are very important even at this young age and Scouts taught me a lot about respect for others, both older and younger, and the importance of teamwork. The same can be applied to a band or orchestra.
“Scouts also taught me practical skills like climbing fences and running across backyards at night without getting caught. No seriously, I recently did a First Aid course and much of what I learnt in Scouts came flooding back.”
Ian continued as a Scout until age 16 when schoolwork and violin studies finally got the better of his spare time.
Ian at work in the studio.
Today Ian continues to perform classical concerts as a soloist with orchestras but is equally at home raising hell playing Jazz concerts around Australia, Europe and Asia. His performance of his Ned Kelly inspired composition "Tin Symphony" (for which he won a platinum ARIA award) premiered at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Opening Ceremony.
He has recently collaborated with classical great Simon Tedeschi, and is a regular guest artist of Australian Jazz trumpeter James Morrison. He has appeared at home and abroad with international artists including George Benson, Neil Sedaka, Max Bygraves, Andrea Bocelli, David Helfgott, Tommy Emmanuel, Barry White, Melinda Schneider and Olivia Newton-John.
He has released eight CDs and has been awarded numerous Australian live performance awards including two Mo Awards, two Australian Club Entertainment Awards, and three Golden Fiddle Awards. Ian also composes soundtracks for the Discovery Channel.
As well as sailing in his spare time, Ian is the pilot of single engine planes. Being a member of James Morrison's band (James also flies), having two pilots fly the band to and from gigs is safer than none!
Ian is looking forward to renewing his involvement with Scouts in the future.
“I now have a son and I'm looking forward to sending him through Cubs and Scouts as well, and doing many the fun, practical things that I did with my Dad,” Ian said.
Visit www.iancooper.com where you can learn more about Ian, listen to samples of his music and purchase his CDs.