In Memory of John Cobb, LPO Personnel Manager 1970-1996

It was with deep sadness that we recently received news of John Cobb’s passing. John worked with the Orchestra for over 30 years and was a highly respected and well-loved member of the team. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this sad time.

After a long battle against cancer John died on Thursday 22 August. He was the product of a Salvation Army musical family where he started playing the trombone at an early age. As an 18-year-old he joined the RAF Central band and became a well-known soloist on the concert bandstand and radio. He was also a member of the International Staff Band of the Salvation Army in his leisure time.

He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music and in 1956 joined the Orchestra of The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. As sometimes happens with brass players he developed an embouchure problem and in the mid 1960’s moved into orchestral personnel management.

After short periods with the LSO (Assistant Manager) and the English National Opera – he moved to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in 1968.

In 1970 he returned to London and became the Orchestral Personnel Manager for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He then spent a long spell of more than 25 years in this role which he described as the happiest days of his working life. In 1996 he formally retired but continued his close connection with his friends at the LPO through involvement with the Youth Orchestra and as an occasional stand in for his successor in the main role.

John was a real people person. Those he met never forgot the experience. He had a unique way of making you feel that what you were doing was the most important thing to him at that moment. Many people both in the music business and outside it will remember him with both fondness, and sadness, on his death.

- Eddie Ashton

'I have such good memories of our working together in the old LPO days. I never had a better personnel manager before or since in all the orchestras I worked with. You kept them all in line...with a kind word and a smile, and they all liked you and respected you. And as for me, you calmed me down and cheered me up very often with a quiet word and a joke. But you were utterly professional at the same time.’

Extract from a letter to John, from conductor Bernard Haitink