He grew up in the musical town of Thorn in Limburg and as a young man played clarinet with the famous Koninklijke Harmonie of Thorn. He studied Clarinet, Wind/Brass Band Conducting, and Orchestral Conducting at Conservatorium Maastricht. He became Principal Clarinettist with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and The Hague Philharmonic and continued his conducting studies with Willem van Otterlo, Ferdinand Leitner and Neeme Järvi. For over 25 years, Jan Cober was a member of the Residentie Wind Quintet.
He has conducted a number of high-quality amateur wind bands in Limburg (with which he has regularly given very successful performances), the wind ensemble of the European Community, and the Nationaal Jeugd Harmonie Orkest, which he also founded. He works worldwide as a guest conductor, from Spain to Japan and from Portugal to Australia. He was Principal Conductor of the Swiss Army Band and the Rundfunk-Blasorchester Leipzig, and Artistic Director of the Bläserakademie Sachsen.
He is also the Artistic Director of the European Institute of Conducting in Trento, Italy. In addition to his activities in the world of wind music, Jan Cober has been a guest conductor with nearly every Dutch symphony orchestra and several symphony orchestras abroad. As of 2015 he is Artistic Advisor of the WMC Kerkrade.