John Bishop, Dr Percy Jones and American music educator, Ruth Alexander, met at Scotch College (Melbourne) in 1943.  Over the next few years Ruth inspired John with her descriptions of American summer music camps.  Subsequently, John Bishop travelled to the USA, Europe and Great Britain, and brought back a resolve to establish a music camp for young Australian musicians.

In 1947 general interest in music camps grew and the first ever Australian music camp was held at Point Lonsdale, Victoria, in the summer of 1948 under the auspices of the National Fitness Council and the Victorian School Music Association.  The success of this venture encouraged Bishop, Jones and Alexander to pursue their ambition of establishing music camps for young musicians.

John and Ruth formed the Australian Youth Orchestra in March 1957. Growing interest in music and the friction of distance encouraged the establishment of music camps on a State basis and the first State Music Camp (Victoria) was held in 1962. Originally scheduled in May to coincide with the first holiday of the three term year the camp was re-positioned in the calendar to mid year when the four term year was introduced. The State Music Camp of Victoria has hosted a music camp each year since 1962.

The two symphony orchestras of the National Music Camp and the State Music Camps in Melbourne and Adelaide, are traditionally named after John Bishop and Ruth Alexander in recognition of their popularity, vision, leadership and commitment to orchestral music for young Australians.