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Rex Hobcroft, AM ( Past Patron)

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.

Click on Dr Rex Hobcroft to read interview he gave in July 06 newsletter
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 scene.

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 (USA).

INTERVIEW WITH OUR PATRON DR REX HOBCROFT

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 piano equally.

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 of all?

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 passionate about?

R.H: Environmental and educational issues.

E.A: What makes you really angry?

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.

E.A: Please share with our students three of your favourite hints for effective instrumental practice.

R.H. Listen 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 difficulties.

E.A: What 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 scene.

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 (USA).

 

© 2007 Suzuki Talent Education Association of Australia WA Inc.
Photographs courtesy Trust Memories & Peter Dawson
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