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British-born Australian conductor and administrator John Raymond Hopkins was born in Yorkshire on 19 July 1927. By the age of twenty-two, he had become an assistant conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra. After three years he took up the post of conductor of the BBC Northern Orchestra. He left this job in 1957, emigrating to New Zealand to become conductor of the National Orchestra (now the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra), where he also founded the New Zealand National Youth Orchestra.
In 1963 he moved to Australia and became Federal Director of Music for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, beginning several innovations within the Concert Music Division, such as broadcasting international avant-garde music and starting an Australian Proms series in Sydney.
In 1973 he resigned from this post for various reasons, including staff tension, and the following year he became the first Dean of the School of Music at the newly formed Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. From 1986 until 1991 he was director of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
He continued to guest conduct community and youth orchestras until he died on 1 October 2013, aged eighty-six, and was professor of conducting at the University of Melbourne Faculty of VCA and MCM.