Dr Richard Meale, one of Australia's finest composers and a leading light in the country's classical music scene, passed away on Monday (Nov. 23) in his hometown, Sydney. He was 77.

Born in 1932, Meale forged successful careers as a conductor, pianist, lecturer, broadcaster and as an internationally-feted composer, his works including "Clouds Now and Then," "Coruscations," "Very High Kings," "Symphony," "Three Miro Pieces" and "Voss," regarded by aficionados as the one of the most important Australian operas.

"Richard's work is an inspiration to the current generation of Australian composers," remarks Kathy Keele, chief executive of the Australia Council. "It is partly due to his efforts that we now hear modern Australian composition being performed around the nation and abroad."

Matthew Hindson, chair of the Australia Council's music board, described Meale as "one of the people who really made Australian music what it is today, firstly through his innovative composition work but also through his extensive teaching and service to community through organisations such as the Australasian Performing Rights Association."

He served on a various arts boards, including the Commonwealth Assistance to Australian Composers, the Australian UNESCO Committee for the Arts, and the Australia Council's music board and was a long-time member of the APRA board.

Having joined the association as a member in 1954, he served as a non-executive writer director on the APRA board from 1986. He retired from the APRA board on November 2008, after 22 years' service.

During his illustrious music career, Meale accumulated some of society's highest honors. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1971 and a Member of the Order of Australia in 1985. He received an Australian Artists Creative Fellowship in 1989, and in 1997 the Don Banks Music Award, the country's most valuable individual music prizes.