After studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1968 to 1971, John Smith joined the orchestra of English National Opera in 1974 and remained there, as Principal Tuba, for almost 20 years. During this time he became an MU activist serving as MU orchestra steward and sitting on various Union committees including a number of years as Chair of the MU Opera and Ballet Orchestras Committee.
While working as a musician he completed an Open University BSc followed by a Masters degree in Industrial Relations as a distance learning student at Keele University. In 1994 he was appointed a full-time official of the Musicians’ Union and was promoted to the post of Assistant General Secretary in 1997, he was elected General Secretary of the MU in December 2002.
In addition to his UK activities, he has been President of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) since 2004 undertaking duties which include representing musicians’ interests in discussions with organisations such as UNESCO, the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the European Commission. He also assists FIM in its work in developing countries.
John has held directorships of the British Copyright Council, UK Music, the Educational Recording Agency. He is also the Vice-President of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU). He has been a member of the TUC General Council since 2007 and a member of the TUC Executive Committee since 2012.
Most recently, John was appointed Chair of the music licensing company PPL with effect from January 2016.