Vale Richard Gill AO

Last Sunday (28 October), over 70 musicians, including the NSW Police Band, gathered outside Richard Gill’s home in Sydney to perform The Dam Busters March — Richard’s favourite song — to mark the passing of a legendary conductor, gifted teacher and passionate advocate for music education.

Vale Richard Gill AO


The tribute, organised by Paul Goodchild, the associate principal trumpet of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and longtime friend of Richard’s, was a heartfelt and fitting farewell to a man who described himself as ‘a sort of crazy crusader’, and who has been described by others as a ‘maverick’, and remembered for his ‘contagious energy and flamboyant rhetoric’.

Music education was at the core of Richard’s being, and he was convinced that music should be taught to children early on. Recently, Richard’s peers awarded him a MOST Achievement Award (MAA) in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the Arts in Australia as both a conductor and as a music educator. Richard’s acceptance speech was read by his son who said, ‘He believes that for good musicians everything begins with sequential music lessons taught by trained teachers and he would like you to know that whilst ever he has breath to breathe, he will continue to work as hard as he can to see that every child in Australia has access to a properly trained music teacher, as early in their lives as possible.’*

Richard was a passionate lobbyist for Australian music and an outspoken critic of the neglect of music in the Australian education system. In a 2016 interview withLimelight,when asked if he could change one thing, what it would be, he replied, ‘I would change every state department’s view of music education and make it mandatory in every school in the country from preschool to grade six.’** The Muswellbrook Richard Gill Music Academy, an independent K-6 Primary School due to open in 2020, will be a tribute to Gill’s unique vision, with music and physical education as cornerstones of the curriculum.

Richard Gill achieved more in one lifetime than most people would in ten. Founding Music Director and Conductor Emeritus of Victorian Opera, he was one of this country’s pre-eminent and most admired conductors specialising in opera, musical theatre and vocal and choral training. He served as Artistic Director of the Education Program for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of OzOpera, (Opera Australia’s then Touring and Outreach program), Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, and Artistic Advisor for the Musica Viva Education program. He was Music Director of Sydney Chamber Choir, Artistic Director of the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra (ARCO) and was the Founder and Director of the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program. He was also founding conductor of the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra. Most recently, Richard became the inaugural King & Wood Mallesons Conservatorium Chair in Music Education of the Sydney Conservatorium High School.

Richard worked with all the major Australian orchestras, Sydney Philharmonia, Canberra Symphony Orchestra as well as the Australian, Sydney and Western Australian Youth Orchestras. He regularly conducted Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Meet the Music concerts, Discovery concerts with the Sydney Symphony Sinfonia, and Sinfonietta concerts. He was Dean of the West Australian Conservatorium of Music (1985–1990) and Director of Chorus at The Australian Opera (1990–1996).

He received many accolades, including an Order of Australia Medal, the Bernard Heinze Award for Services to Music in Australia, an Honorary Doctorate from the Edith Cowan University of Western Australia for his service to Australian music and musicians, an Hon. Doc. (ACU), and the Australian Music Centre’s award for ‘Most Distinguished Contribution to the Presentation of Australian Composition by an Individual’. He also received the Australia Council’s Don Banks Award 2006 and the 2014 APRA Art Music Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music.

It is hard to imagine a music world without Richard Gill, but his legacy will resonate in future generations.

‘Music is worth teaching for its own sake. It is worth teaching because it is good, it is worth teaching because it is unique, and it is worth teaching because it empowers children spectacularly.’ Richard Gill.



Biographical details from