Margaret Hawkins, one of America’s foremost choral conductors, was Choral Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and Director of Performance Activities at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. She prepared the choral forces of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra since 1969, founded the 200 voice Milwaukee Symphony Chorus in 1976 and was its director until her retirement in 1993. She was also a regular guest conductor of the MSO and other orchestras.
Margaret Hawkins' expertise and leadership in, and her dedication to the field of choral music extended far beyond Milwaukee. Within 4 years of establishing the Wisconsin Conservatory Chamber Singers, she conducted them in concerts at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) convention in St. Louis in 1975 and at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. She served on the board of directors of Chorus America practically from its inception in 1977. Margaret Hillis noted that Margaret "made an incredible contribution when it came to time with her wonderful intellect and that sense of humor." In 1991 she was given the Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art from Chorus America.
Margaret Hawkins was appointed a member of the Music Festival Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts (1979-1983), was chair person for the ACDA High School Standards and Repertoire committee and published An Annotated Inventory of Distinctive Choral Literature for Performance at the High School Level, Monograph Series Number Two, for the ACDA.
National recoginition of Margaret Hawkins' conducting expertise brought invitations to guest conduct and even enticements to lure her away permanently from Milwaukee. She was in demand throughout the country, as a master teacher and clinician. She conducted the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston and the Cleveland Orchestra. Her Milwaukee Symphony Chorus performed with the Chicago Symphony Chorus at Ravinia. In 1989 she became the first woman to conduct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (which appeared with the MSO at the Marcus Amphitheatre on July 25). In 1991 she conducted performances of Johannes Brahms' Requiem in Philadelphia. Engagements in summer 1992 included conducting Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass at the Adirondack Festival of American Music in July, as well as a repeat performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus at the Ravinia Festival.
Margaret Hawkins received numerous awards and honors, including being named “Musician of the Year” twice by the Milwaukee Sentinel. In May 1993, she received the String Academy of Wisconsin’s 1993 Performing Arts Leadership Award in recognition of her service to the arts in the greater Milwaukee area. As MSO Conductor Laureate Lukas Foss said of her, “Milwaukee has a few national treasures and Margaret Hawkins is one.”