John Hawkins was born in Romford, attended the Royal Liberty Grammar School and held a Junior Exhibition at the Gulidhall School of Music & Drama where he studied piano and violin. Early orchestral experience was gained at the Guildhall and in the Hornchurch Youth Orchestra under the direction of Denis Clift.
John spent four years at Hull University where he gained a BMus (hons) degree and teaching qualifications. While in Hull he conducted the University G & S Society's productions of "The Mikado" and "Orpheus in the Underworld". Returning south, John followed a teaching career in Havering and Redbridge until his retirement in 2005. From 1976 to 1992 he was Musical Director of Shenfield Operatic Society, responsible for 20 of their productions. Around that time he was also Principal Viola of the Fairkytes Sinfonia (a predecessor of the BPO). In the 1990s John decided to follow his interest in mathematics and studied with the Open University to gain a BSc (hons) in 2000.
John has been the Organist at Nelmes United Reformed Church since 1965. He has led the 2nd Violins of the BPO since 2001 and also plays violin or viola in the Havering Concert Orchestra. From 2003 to 2013 John directed the Romford YMCA Orchestra which gave regular concerts of Light Music, much of it arranged by John himself.