ACT News

License article

Bill Hoffmann record collection at Lifeline book fair will pass on a man's love for music

Sharon Hoffmann can fondly recall her father-in-law Bill Hoffmann's passion for music over a lifetime that saw a rejuvenation of the arts in the nation's capital.

"People used to think Bill was falling asleep in performances in the Canberra Theatre, but he wasn't," she said. "He was just listening."

Some 800 records belonging to the late Canberra Times music critic Bill Hoffmann will be on sale this weekend at the tri-annual Lifeline Book Fair, representing just part of a collection amassed over 40 years.

Mr Hoffmann's son, Martyn, is pleased the collection has been donated to the charity he says his father had chosen before he died.

"You know people talk about a photographic memory, he had one for sound," Martyn said. "You could play a short phrase of music and he could tell you what it was from."

"[The records] have come from a house that always had music.


"It was quite clear on his part that his collection was to go to Lifeline."

Bill Hoffmann died in 2011 aged 91, after a career in music education during which he established the Canberra City Band, wrote music criticism for The Canberra Times, and received the Order of Australia in 1985.

His record collection comprised classical, jazz as well as many local records sent by record labels for review. As for Mr Hoffmann's favourite, Martyn and Sharon agreed his choice might be contentious.

"If you asked him, I think he had a passion for Mahler," Martyn said. "It's not everyone's taste.

"He had very broad tastes, and I think that's reflected in [the collection]. That you can go from the earliest 1600s Renaissance music through to quite contemporary stuff."

"When he started in The Canberra Times, apparently the rule was you don't lie, but you always promote local talent above imported talent," Sharon said.

It didn't take long for Mr Hoffmann to become a well respected figure in the Canberra music community as a critic, a music teacher, and later as key in establishing the ACT public schools instrumental music program, which has taught some 40,000 primary-aged students a musical instrument since its inception in 1973.

"Certainly a lot of the early Canberra music schemes that were run in the schools that are around today all came out of the work of letting kids have a go," Martyn said.

As for the records themselves, both Martyn and Sharon are glad to see them go to a good cause.

"He would want the music to be listened to and enjoyed," Sharon said. "He wasn't someone who had albums and books that just sat on the shelf."

Martyn said his mum "wouldn't let the albums go until she passed away" in June last year.

Although Mr Hoffman travelled the country filing reviews of music performances, he was devoted to the city where he had spent most his life.