John was born in Fife, Scotland, in 1949 into a brass band family. He attended Buckhaven High School and King’s College, Cambridge. During his trumpet-playing career he held positions with the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, and London Sinfonietta, as well as forming the Wallace Collection brass ensemble.
He recorded all the major trumpet solo works on CD and premiered new concertos by Malcolm Arnold, Maxwell Davies, Macmillan, Muldowney, Souster, Schuller and Saxton amongst others.
From 2002-14 he was Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, after which he resumed his performing career. From 2015 -18 he was the Royal Society of Edinburgh vice-president for arts, humanities and social sciences. In 2011 he was awarded a CBE for services to Dance, Drama and Music. In 2021 he was awarded the Queen’s medal for music.
Presently, in addition to his board membership of the Scottish Funding Council, he is involved with St Andrews Music Participation (StAMP) which has started off over 500 beginners on brass instruments in Fife primary schools since 2020. He also convenes the Music Education Partnership Group, chairs the Glasgow Barons, a new orchestra based in Govan and is President of St Mary’s Music School.
A sometime composition student of Alan Bush and David Blake, John’s one-act Opera on the subject of dementia, Opsnizing Dad, was nominated for an Ivors Award in November 2022.
John’s reappointment runs from 4 November 2023 to 3 November 2026.