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Kinston, Steven (1908–1996)

by David Colville

This article was published online in 2021

Steven Kinston (1908–1996), dentist, musician, and arts patron, was born on 23 January 1908 at Kolomea (Kolomyia, Ukraine), Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and named Samson Siegfried, elder child of Bukovina-born Samuel Kinsbrunner, merchant, and his Galician-born wife Josefine ‘Pessie,’ née Kaunitz. Samson and his brother, Paul, grew up at Czernowitz, Bukovina (Cernăuți, Romania, from 1918) (Chernivtsi, Ukraine), where their childhood was marred by sometimes-violent anti-Semitism. Academically and musically gifted, Samson travelled to Italy in 1926 and was accepted as a scholarship student at both the University of Florence, where he graduated in medicine (1932) and dentistry (1936), and the Luigi Cherubini Conservatorium of Music, at which he won a national piano competition. He also attended the city’s Academy of Fine Arts.

Towards the end of the 1930s, while practising as a dentist in Italy, Kinsbrunner concluded that growing anti-Jewish feeling throughout Europe necessitated emigration. He, his wife Edith, née Gottlieb—whom he had married in Vienna on 6 March 1938—and his brother, who was also a qualified medical and dental practitioner, were granted entry permits by the Australian government.

On 4 May 1939 the three arrived in Sydney aboard the Ormonde. The brothers changed their name to Kinston; thereafter, Samson used Steven as his sole given name. They both moved to Brisbane that year and set up a dental practice together. Their parents joined them in 1940. Categorised at different times as refugee (1939–41 and 1943–45) and enemy (1941–43) aliens in World War II, they were closely monitored by the security services and police. A dossier noted that they had ‘plenty of money [and had] brought with them all their household effects, plus dental equipment’ (NAA BP242/1). Having divorced Edith, Steven married Lena (Lana) Goldberg, a secretary, on 31 August 1943 at the Great Synagogue, Sydney. He was naturalised on 15 February 1945.

Described as ‘a surgeon dentist by occupation, but a musician by inclination’ (Telegraph 1946, 3), Kinston contributed greatly to the development of Brisbane’s artistic life. He performed as a piano soloist and chamber musician, in concert and on Australian Broadcasting Commission radio; joined the committee of the Queensland Authors’ and Artists’ Association in 1941; co-arranged that year a recital of music by Australian composers; advocated measures to encourage the country’s musical talent; and presided (1950–65) over the Brisbane Arts Theatre.

Kinston’s dental practice was boosted when a local music magazine published an article about him and his knowledge of Chopin, whose works he had studied for his thesis. ‘My patients wanted to be treated by the dentist with the Chopin touch’ (Colville 1996, 17), he later commented, not too seriously. In 1955 he arranged with the Sydney-based chamber music organisation the Musica Viva Society of Australia to establish a Queensland branch, of which he was inaugural president. Musica Viva’s first Brisbane season, in 1956, began with a concert by the Pascal String Quartet from France. Concurrently, Kinston was invited to be a member of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s subscribers committee, serving as its vice-president and, for six years, president.

Moving to Sydney in the mid-1960s, Kinston remained a passionate supporter of Musica Viva and the arts in general. His lifetime commitment to his adopted country was epitomised by one of his favourite sayings: ‘The soul of a country is expressed in its art’ (Colville 1996, 17). In his local community, he ‘mixed well … bringing good humour and a willing helpfulness’ (Kinston, pers. comm.). He was of middle height and medium build, with brown eyes and wavy brown hair, combed back. A fit, active, and competitive sportsman, he played tennis, later golf, and finally lawn bowls. He died on 29 May 1996 at his Point Piper home and was buried in the Jewish section of Rookwood cemetery. His wife had died a week earlier; their two sons survived them.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Colville, David. ‘War Refugee Helped Refine Arts Landscape.’ Australian, 11 June 1996, 17
  • Kinston, Warren. Personal communication
  • National Archives of Australia. BP242/1, Q18459
  • Telegraph (Brisbane). ‘Says Some Suffer “Agonies of Boredom” at Concerts.’ 24 June 1946, 3

Additional Resources

Citation details

David Colville, 'Kinston, Steven (1908–1996)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kinston-steven-23862/text32728, published online 2021, accessed online 24 January 2022.

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