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Green, Henry William (Harry) (1908–1989)

by P. A. Howell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Henry William (Harry) Green (1908-1989), music college principal, was born on 15 September 1908 at Birkenhead, Port Adelaide, son of Henry James Green, railway engineman, and his wife Ada Catherine, née Burgess, both `Portonians’ by birth. Young Harry obtained free Catholic secondary schooling at the St Enda’s juniorate of the Irish Christian Brothers, Strathfield, Sydney. After transferring to the adjacent Mount St Mary’s novitiate in September 1924 he gained some tertiary education and chose the religious name `Brother Jerome’. From January 1926 he taught in the Brothers’ schools at Lewisham, in East Melbourne and then at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, where he made his final profession in 1933 and won local renown as an art teacher. He was granted leave in 1935 to teach for a term in a London art school. Next year, soon after his return to Australia, for unrecorded reasons he was dispensed from his vows. The break was amicable and for the rest of his life he called and signed himself `Harry J. Green’.

Moving to Adelaide, Green found work as a shop assistant at the Myer Emporium (SA) Ltd store, and for relaxation painted, played the piano and acted in amateur theatricals. He supplemented his income by conducting art classes, again with success, at the Marist Brothers’ Sacred Heart College, Somerton. On 7 January 1939 at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral he married Jean Colbey (d.1988), a secretary and a convert from Anglicanism. They lived at Glen Osmond and had a son and a daughter. In November 1939 he was appointed a justice of the peace.

That year Green helped (Sir) Ellerton Becker to stage his extravaganza On Parade in the Theatre Royal. Green transformed the production by creating stunning sets and introducing Hollywood-style costuming and movement. He then quit his other employment to become vice-principal of Becker’s Adelaide College of Music. In 1941 Becker appointed Green principal and next year he sold the college and the Stradivarius Instrument Co. Pty Ltd to the impecunious ex-Brother for a deposit of £1, expecting Green soon to make enough to pay the balance.

The confidence was justified. Under the college’s new ownership and direction, in the next twenty years its enrolments rose from fewer than 1200 to over 9900 and its teaching staff from thirty-seven to almost four hundred. The already large brass, woodwind, drum and banjo-mandolin classes continued growing. Green added tuition in jazz, choral singing, recorders, piano accordions, fiddles and acoustic and Hawaiian guitars. Thousands more studied piano by the `rhythm method’, learning to play simple melodies accompanied by chords. The system avoided the need for mastering scales and arpeggios but limited most pupils’ capacity for advancing beyond a perfunctory rendition of foxtrots, quicksteps and waltzes. Many students or their parents bought their instruments at Green’s shop.

Until 1969, and then in 1972, 1973 and 1975, the students’ talents were showcased in the annual production On Parade. It ran for nine nights, always sold out in advance and was excellent publicity for the college. Most of the revenue went to meet expenses and the Federal government’s entertainment tax, but in the last years of World War II the show yielded £2000 for the Young Men’s Christian Association’s military services appeal, and subsequently £11,000 for the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, which in 1959 made Green a life governor.

Several of the college’s brass, clarinet and percussion students gained celebrity. Bruce Gray, Bill Munro and Bob Wright became central to the development of traditional jazz in Australia. Syd Beckwith became a well-known band leader in Canada. Errol Buddle and Jack Brokensha formed the Australian Jazz Quartet/Quintet which, according to the jazz historian Andrew Bisset, won `widespread critical and popular approval’ while touring the United States of America in 1954-58. In a branch of the college called the Radio Institute of Australia, Green developed training in announcing, play-reading, script-writing, radio production and advertising and, later, television work. One of his students, Bobby Limb, became a renowned radio and television personality. Green further capitalised on the craze for popular music by founding other colleges of music, in South Australia at Port Adelaide and Berri, in New South Wales at Broken Hill, and in Brisbane and Perth. By 1963 he had persuaded the independently owned Sydney and Melbourne colleges of Music to join his own in a body called the Associated Music Colleges of Australia Pty Ltd. He became its governing director.

Green had entered into competition with the Elder Conservatorium of Music from 1944, undercutting its charges for those seeking individual tuition in concert music. Enlisting the services of private teachers and most members of the South Australian Symphony Orchestra, he formed a division that in 1953 was renamed the Adelaide Conservatorium of Music. By 1960 it was preparing 2100 pupils per year for examinations conducted by the Australian Music Examinations Board or the Royal College of Music, London. Two students of singing became principal tenors: Kevin Miller with the English National Opera, and Lance Ingram (stage name Albert Lance) with the Paris Opéra.

From the 1960s enrolments declined. In 1975 Green sold the business to Music Houses of Australia Ltd, which retained him as principal and manager of the instrument shop. A few months later Music Houses was taken over by EMI Ltd, whose main focus was selling records, audiotapes and electrical goods. On 11 November 1975 Green and his staff were told that teaching was to cease immediately. Offered assistance if he wished to find new premises and relaunch the Adelaide College as an independent entity, he chose to become a travel consultant.

Plain and bespectacled, but impressive in height, speech and manner, Green loved the limelight. He was president of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of South Australia (1949-66), the Music Teachers’ Federation of Australia (1956-68), the State division of the Australian-American Association (1956-65) and the South Australian Italian Association (1958-63), and vice-president of the Australian-Asian Association of South Australia (1962-64). He was a member of the Knights of the Southern Cross (1938-67). As president (1971-72) of the Lions Club of the City of Adelaide he promoted its interest in assisting the vision-impaired; as president (1955-77) and vice-president (1977-86) of the Catholic Blind Association of South Australia, he helped to found (1961) St Raphael’s Home for the Aged Blind at Fullarton. Survived by his daughter, Green died on 2 February 1989 in North Adelaide and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. D. McCredie (ed), From Colonel Light into the Footlights (1988)
  • P. A. Howell, `The Adelaide College of Music and Its Founder’, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, no 20, 1992, p 5
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 11 Dec 1999, p 52, 18 Dec 1999, p 52
  • J. Peoples, taped interview with H. W. Green (1982, Performing Arts Collection of South Australia)
  • Associated Music Colleges of Australia Pty Ltd records (Performing Arts Collection of South Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

P. A. Howell, 'Green, Henry William (Harry) (1908–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/green-henry-william-harry-12560/text22611, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 22 July 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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