By Elisabeth Anderson
E.A. How and when did it
all start for you as a pianist and why the piano?
R.H. Both my parents were
musical. My father played violin and my mother
piano. I was incredibly fortunate in my growing
up years to hear my parents making music most
evenings. I grew up on a vineyard 6 kms from
the wonderful Murray River town of Renmark,
in South Australia. My father had been granted
land to plant a vineyard as a returned soldier
from the First World War. It all started with
lessons when the local Congregational minister,
a friend of my parents and a pianist himself,
noted that I had a good musical ear and suggested
that I have lessons. The result was piano lessons
which began at age five. Why the piano? It just
worked out that way. I still like violin and
E.A. Is piano your `love'
or (mainly) your `profession?'
R.H. That's an easy one! `Love'
of the piano wins easily. However, mention of
it as a `profession' prompts a few extra thoughts.
The main one is that -as far as I know -no pianist
living in Australia in the years I was active
(and before) made a living solely from giving
recitals of `classical' music and concerto performances
apart from the important exception of the accompanists
employed by the ABC. As a `profession' it meant
that we taught piano and gave occasional ABC
broadcast recitals and concerto performances,
as well as concerts at music clubs and other
organisations. Sometimes there was the rare
tour: my introduction to Western Australia in
1951 was by way of a tour giving some 40 evening
concerts and schools' concerts in over 20 towns.
The other thought is that even from the opening
of the Queensland Conservatorium in February,
1957, I was only the second pianist appointed
to a full time teaching position at a conservatorium
in Australia. The Elder Conservatorium in the
University of Adelaide had recently then paved
the way. It was thus an insecure profession
for those dozens of instrumental and singing
teachers in the conservatoriums of Australia.
All were employed on a part time basis only.
E.A: Who influenced you the
most philosophically as well as musically?
R.H: Two fascinating questions?
An experience when about 12 remains absolutely
dominant after 70 years. It has been a powerful
awareness guide in the `knowing' of the inter-connectedness
of everything. I came out the back door of our
home when the sun was setting and stood looking
out over the vines. What happened then is beyond
description, but as a try I was suddenly no
longer just `me' looking out at things. There
was no `me'. There was no `time'. `I' was one
with everything. Relating that to music, there
were the moments when suddenly, after hours
of practice, one would feel oneness with the
music. Those rare and precious moments of music
making seemed to come from an inner `Self as
`Presence' and `Being.' Those and similar experiences
over the years have been the most potent influences
overall. I wish to add that all the students
it has been my privilege to teach have also
been major musical influences.
E.A: Which one of your professional
achievements do you personally treasure most
R.H: I tend not to dwell on
happenings once they are over. The `real' happenings
like those mentioned in answer to the previous
question are treasured. However the one that
incorporated some of its own treasured moments
was the founding of the Tasmanian Conservatorium
in 1964. When it seemed as though it would take
many years to set up a conservatorium in Hobart
everything suddenly fell into place. Within
days from being suddenly a possibility, and
one short meeting between the University of
Tasmania and the Tasmanian Education Department
the go ahead to set it up and open it in under
three months was given. It happened, and the
Con quickly gained wide recognition.
E.A: You became the Patron
of STEAA(WA) in the mid-1980's. What made you
accept the position?
R.H: I had been patron of
the New South Wales Suzuki Association for some
years before retiring to live in Western Australia,
and had given support for the teaching of the
Suzuki method in both the Tasmanian Conservatorium
and the Sydney Conservatorium when director
of those institutions. I had met Dr Suzuki at
the Eastman School of Music in USA one day in
1967 when, by chance, we were separate guests
visiting that renowned School. I had the opportunity
that day to watch Dr Suzuki himself teaching
youngsters. Later back in Hobart, a friend,
the late Peter Komlos, returned to Hobart following
Suzuki studies in Japan. He asked if he could
introduce the method in the Conservatorium.
I readily agreed and Peter did wonderful work
with the students. Soon after, as director of
the Sydney Conservatorium, I agreed to Suzuki
method classes being held there. Later on in
retirement in Perth Janet Leggo invited me to
be patron of the WA Association. Knowing something
of Janet's excellent reputation as a teacher
and organiser and her pioneering work in establishing
the Suzuki piano method here in Perth, I felt
honoured to be asked and still able to keep
an association with the marvellous world of
Suzuki Talent Education.
E.A: What are you really
R.H: Environmental and educational
E.A: What makes you really
R.H: Although I rarely get
openly angry, the senseless wars, ill-treatment
of children, women and men, lack of shelter,
food, and other basics we take for granted are,
together with other horrors seen each night
on television, enough to make one despair for
the future. But we must remain positive.
E.A: What do you do when
you don't play piano?
R.H: I rarely play piano now
due to a problem with my left arm, hand and
fingers. So, there is always lots of music to
listen to, and things to read and write about.
share with our students three of your favourite
hints for effective instrumental practice.
to every sound you make. Catch yourself when
thinking about other things and “return”
to the listening of every sound you make. Make
up your own exercises to help overcome technical
are the main cornerstones of your professional
career as a musician? R.H: [Refer to the biographies
you have.] Rex Hobcroft studied at the Adelaide
and Melbourne University Conservatoriums and
the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. He was
a RAAF pilot (1943-45) and later a commercial
pilot with Ansett Airways before resuming musical
studies. His career has been taken up with giving
recitals, conducting, chamber music, composing,
teaching and directing conservatoriums. He was
the first Australian pianist to play Beethoven's
32 piano sonatas in public (1962).
1n 1973 the conducted the first
evening performance of an opera in the Sydney
Opera House -Sitsky and Harwood’s The
Fall of the House of Usher. He has had a close
association with each of the six States' main
conservatoriums. He was foundation head of the
keyboard department at the Queensland Conservatorium
from its opening in 1957. In 1961 he took up
an appointment to develop musical studies and
activities at the University of Tasmania, and
in 1964 founded and directed the Tasmanian Conservatorium.
He was director of the Sydney Conservatorium,
(1972 -82). Later, on retirement in Perth, he
chaired the WA State Government's Conservatorium
Committee which resulted in the establishment
of the WA Conservatorium in 1985.
He initiated the first two
National Composers' Seminars in Hobart in 1963
and 1965. The 1963 gathering, attended by a
majority of Australia's recognised composers,
is remembered as a watershed in Australian composition.
At the 1965 event he conducted the first performances
of three Australian operas. He was later a co-founder
and conductor of the Tasmanian Opera Company.
During his 10 years in Hobart he developed a
range of courses and activities which made a
significant contribution to the Tasmanian musical
His directorship of the Sydney
Conservatorium is recognised as a notable time
in the Conservatorium's history during which
courses and activities expanded on an unprecedented
scale. The Introduction to the 1994 Review of
the Sydney Conservatorium of Music by the Review
Committee appointed by the Vice-Chancellor of
Sydney University, mentions: Historically, the
Conservatorium has enjoyed a prominent place
in Australian musical life. Key periods in the
institution's more recent history include those
under the directorship of Sir Eugene in the
I950s., and ,Mr Rex Hobcroft in the 1970s.
Rex Hobcroft initiated and confounded the Sydney
International Piano Competition of Australia
in 1976. As its artistic director and jury chairman
(1976-90) he introduced many innovations which
have been adopted by several other international
competitions. He has been a jury member of many
major international piano competitions including
the Chopin (Warsaw), Tchaikovsky (Moscow), Liszt-Bartok
(Budapest) Munich, London, Santander (Spain),
Tokyo, Beijing, Pozzoli (Italy), Gina Bachauer