1 October 2013
John Hopkins (1927-2013)
One of Australia's most esteemed conductors and administrators,
British-born John Hopkins OBE AM died in Melbourne late at
night on 30 September. Born in Yorkshire on 19 July 1927,
Hopkins was trained as a cellist with Haydn Rogerson at the
Royal Manchester College of Music, then studied conducting with
Joseph Lewis at the Guildhall School, London, and with Carlo
Zecchi at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He became assistant
conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra at a young age in 1949,
then conductor of the BBC Northern Orchestra in 1952.
Hopkins moved to New Zealand in 1957 where he lead the National Orchestra of New Zealand (later NZSO) as well as the New Zealand Opera Company, and founded the New Zealand National Youth Orchestra. In 1963 he moved to Australia where he soon became recognised as an innovator. As Federal Director of Music for the ABC - a leadership position responsible for the activities of all the then ABC orchestras - he oversaw the most vibrant and prolific period in terms of performances of Australian music new and old. Hopkins initiated a concert series featuring avant-garde works by international composers as well as actively championing the work of Australian artists Peter Sculthorpe, Nigel Butterley and Richard Meale. He held the post until 1973.
Hopkins conducted the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, and completed numerous overseas tours to conduct orchestras from Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Canada, the USA, South Africa and Japan. Other career highs included becoming the founding Dean of the College of Music at the Victorian College of the Arts, and enjoying a six-year tenure as Director of Sydney Conservatorium of Music. John Hopkins was Convenor of Conducting and an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Music at the University of Melbourne. He was awarded the APRA/AMC Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music in 2011.
Hopkins published his memoirs - entitled The point of the baton and written in collaboration with William Cottam - in 2009.
Hopkins - AMC profile (biography, articles and other
'John Hopkins - The Point of the Baton' - an article on Resonate by William Cottam (co-writer of Hopkins's 2009 memoirs)
'Giant of Australian music dies' - an article by Dewi Cooke in The Sydney Morning Herald (2 October 2013)
'An unbridled love of music' - an obituary in The Australian by Vincent Plus (16 October 2013)
John Hopkins - obituary in The Telegraph (3 October 2013)
© Australian Music Centre (2013) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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Tribute to John Hopkins
I owe a great deal to the encouragement I was given by John Hopkins. I was a young composer in WA when he was Federal Director of Music for the ABC, he encouraged (pushed?) the ABC in Perth to do a series of contemporary music concerts for the Festival of Perth. I had several pieces performed then, and broadcast all over Australia. It was the start of my composing career. Later, John came to UK for some cocnerts with the BBC Philharmonic and included a big orchestral piece of mine in his programs. He led a fantastic performance and was so lovely and encouraging - it was a highlight for me.