Death of James Watson

4BR has been informed of the sudden death of former Black Dyke Musical Director, James Watson.

James Watson

4BR has been informed of the sudden death of James Watson, aged 59.

It is understood that the former principal trumpet player with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Opera House and London Sinfonietta, died unexpectedly at home on Sunday morning, 6th February.


Current Black Dyke Director of Music, Dr Nicholas Childs, told 4BR that the news has stunned everyone connected with the band.

"He was a truly great musician and one of the finest Musical Directors of Black Dyke. His record of achievement with the band is legendary. It was an honour to follow in his footsteps at Black Dyke. He will be greatly missed by everyone associated with the band, and our deepest sympathies are with his family at this time."

He was a truly great musician and one of the finest Musical Directors of Black Dyke. He record of achievement with the band is legendaryDr Nicholas Childs


Ian Porthouse was appointed principal cornet with both Desford and Black Dyke by James Watson, and he too is stunned by the news.

"He was a great influence on me both as a player and a young conductor. I will forever be grateful to him for the way in which he encouraged me as a musician. He is a great loss to the world of music, and brass banding in particular."

Young cornet talent

Born into a musical family in Leicestershire, James Watson quickly established a reputation as one of the leading young cornet talents in the country, becoming principal cornet of Desford Colliery Band aged 11 and going on to create history by winning both the Junior and Senior Champion Soloist of Great Britain titles in 1966 – aged just 14.

Sought after

After study at the Royal Academy of Music he was appointed Principal Trumpet at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra by Rudolf Kemp and went on to become one of the most sought after players in the professional ranks – performing with many of the world’s leading orchestras and musicians, as well as the Nash and the Philip Jones Brass Ensembles.

Long association

His long association with banding saw him become of the most successful conductors of the 1980’s and 1990’s – most notably with the likes of Brighouse & Rastrick, then Desford and Black Dyke.


He won the National Championships of Great Britain on six occasions, as well as the British Open and European Championship and five Regional titles with four separate bands. He was the Musical Director of Black Dyke from 1992 – 2000.

He was Artistic Director of the National Youth Brass Band of Wales for six years and was a Vice-President of the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain. He was awarded the Iles Medal in 1996.

From 2001 James Watson was Head of Brass at the Royal Academy of Music and latterly returned to brass band conducting with the Solna Band in Sweden.

Funeral details

James Watson's funeral will take place at St Marylebone Parish Church, 17 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LT on Monday 21st February at 11.00am, followed by a reception in the Duke’s Hall. All are welcome.

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