If you are a fan of marching music who spends time online, you have probably already heard of the passing of Bill Cook, founder of Cook Group Incorporated, and of Star of Indiana and Blast. It seems like anyone who met Mr. Cook has memorable stories to share. Hearing of his passing reminded me of the first time I met him.

In 1994, Star of Indiana Drum and Bugle Corps reinvented itself as Brass Theatre, touring with The Canadian Brass. That June, Brass Theatre with The Canadian Brass was an event at the then-Bands of America Summer Symposium in Normal, Illinois. I believe it was their first performance for the general public.

As the concert hall doors opened, I was asked to run up to the mezzanine and hold the first row of seats for Mr. Cook, his wife and some guests who were coming over from Bloomington, Indiana. When I got to the mezzanine, a few folks who came in right as doors opened had already claimed the front row of seats. I asked them if they would mind moving back a row as I needed to reserve the first row for some special guests, and they kindly obliged.

As the hall filled, I watched the aisles for the Cooks, whom I had never met. I was standing in front of a gentlemen who was one of the people I had asked to move. He asked me who I was reserving the seats for, and I explained I was holding them for Bill Cook, founder of the show, and his guests. He nodded and asked me a lot of questions about the show, about BOA and the summer camp, and we talked all the way up until just before showtime.

With five minutes left, I was concerned because Mr. Cook had not yet arrived. Scott McCormick, then President of Bands of America, walked down the aisle steps toward me as I gestured with hands wide and a shrug that Mr. Cook and his guests had never arrived. As he reached me at the front of the mezzanine, he looked at the people I had moved back a row and said to the gentleman I’d spent the past 25 minutes talking to: “Mr. Cook! I’m so glad you made it.”

Mrs. Cook and the rest of the group burst into laughter at the look on my face. I’ll never forget the smile Mr. Cook gave me then. We’d had wonderful conversation, and he was so unassuming that I never would have guessed that he was the larger-than-life person I was looking for.

If you have a memory of Mr. Cook to share, I invite you to comment here.

You also might enjoy James Mason’s message at 


– Deb Asbill, Music for All