Canberra jazz identity dies at 75

THE Canberra music community is saddened to learn of the death last Wednesday at Canberra Hospital of music historian and trombonist John Sharpe. He was 75.

John Sharpe

A fastidious documenter of jazz in the ACT, a life member of Canberra Jazz Club and the Canberra City Band, and for a time the jazz reviewer for “The Canberra Times”, he was best-known as the publisher of many full-length works on jazz and band music.

Among his many publications were “Cool Capital: the Canberra jazz scene, 1925-2005”, a collection of stories about Australian jazz musicians for ScreenSound Australia in 2001, edited stories under the title “I Wanted to be a Jazz Musician” in 2008 and his opus magnum, “Mr Chifley’s Baby”, a collaborative work on the history of the City Band written with the late William Hoffmann, titled because of the personal interest taken by Prime Minister Ben Chifley in the band from 1947.

In reporting on the launch of “Mr Chifley’s Baby” in 2013, “CityNews” music writer Bill Stephens said Sharpe had come across the manuscript of an unpublished book by Hoffmann outlining the musical development in Canberra. He approached Hoffmann for permission to incorporate sections of the unpublished work in the complete band history he was preparing. Hoffmann collaborated in that history before his death in 2011.

A youthful portrait of the late John Sharpe, courtesy of the Sharpe family

President of Canberra City Band Stephen Hallyburton describes Sharpe as “the most friendly and welcoming elder statesman imaginable”. Sharpe had been awarded life membership of the Canberra City Band organisation in 2009 for outstanding contributions to its output and success over many years,  including committing to two ensembles.

John Bruce Sharpe, December 12, 1941 to July 12, 2017. He is survived by his wife Desley, children Penny, Angela and Julia and five grandchildren.

A farewell for John Sharpe will be held tomorrow, Monday, July 17. Those wishing to attend should email for details of time and venue.


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