He first made his mark as a gifted director of television arts programmes. The 18 years that he spent at the BBC heralded an unprecedented burgeoning of the arts on BBC Television. He made programmes around masterclasses with cellist Paul Tortelier, the Leeds Piano Competition and, most memorably, about Diaghilev. For these he interviewed such legendary figures as Karsavina and Massine, interviews which were printed, among many others, in his book, Speaking of Diaghilev, published in 1997 by Faber and Faber.
He was appointed Director of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1978 where he brought into play his interest in the inter-relation of the arts. In the 1979 Festival 1979 Diaghilev’s influence was apparent in opera, ballet, concerts, lectures and an exhibition, while his final festival in 1982 “Vienna 1900” included performances of music by Schönberg, Berg, Webern and Zemlinsky being complemented by manifestations of Kokoschka and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, of Rilke, Hoffmansthal and Werfel.
In 1984 he was appointed as Controller, Music, and then to the controllership of Radio 3 and the planning the annual Proms series including the 100th season and the celebrations of the centenary of the Proms. In 1998 he gave the RPS Annual Lecture under the title Taking Music Seriously.
John Drummond was appointed CBE in 1990 and knighted in 1995. He died on 6 September 2006.
The RPS Drumond Fund was set up by the RPS and Bob Lockyer in memory of John Drummond and the English born Diaghilev dancer Lydia Sokolova (1896-1974)
“There is more talent in music in this country by a long way than when I was young. There are also more outlets. But there is a real lack of belief, of aspiration and of vision…many people have some hard thinking to do, as to whether giving pleasure is the only function of art, or instant gratification the only responsibility we have to ourselves; or whether a truly civilised society can ever be obtained without aspiration and hard work. For in the end, taking music seriously means taking life seriously.”