Hans Vonk was born in Amsterdam on June 16, 1942. He studied piano at the Amsterdam Conservatoire, then went on to study conducting with Franco Ferrara and Hermann Scherchen. His first conducting appointment was with the Netherlands Ballet from 1966 to 1969. From 1969 to 1973, he was assistant-conductor at the Concertgebouw Orchestra, which was led at the time by Bernard Haitink. He was appointed chief-conductor of the Netherlands Opera from 1976 to 1985, while at the same time holding the position of conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (1973-1979), as well as that of regular guest-conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1976-1979) in London.
From 1980 to 1991, Hans Vonk was chief-conductor of the Residentie Orchestra in the Hague, with which he toured a great deal both in Europe and the United States. In 1985, he was appointed chief-conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle and the Dresden State Opera. In 1990, he was named first regular guest-conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. The following year saw his appointment as chief-conductor of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, in which position he remained until the 1996-1997 season. In the United States, Maestro Vonk conducted the Philadelphia, Cleveland and Boston Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, to name a few. From 1996-2002, Maestro Vonk was chief-conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra;and from 2002 until his death in 2004, he was chief-conductor of the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra.