02 January 2010

Remembering Dr. Kenneth M. Fischer

On Wednesday, December 9th, 2010 my friend, mentor and colleague Dr. Kenneth Fischer died after a brief illness. He was a frequent teacher at the Siskiyou Saxophone Workshop and guest of Southern Oregon University. Dr. Fischer was only 58 years old.

Twenty years ago this December I met Dr. Fischer. I met him and Dr. Rousseau in the Yamaha area at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in 1989. My friend was meeting Dr. Rousseau for a lesson and it was an unexpected surprise to also meet Dr. Fischer. He had recently been featured in the Saxophone Journal. It was an interview by a former student, Tom Smialek, about Fischer's career and teaching. I was so motivated by his teaching philosophy that it prompted my to write a letter to the editor that was published in the following issue. I was surprised that when I met Dr. Fischer at Midwest he recognized my name from the letter. I introduced myself and he said, "You are the one that wrote that kind letter." That was the beginning of my 20 year mentorship.

While I finished my undergraduate degree at Iowa State University over the next three years, we kept in touch. This was before email was ubiquitous so we'd write or call each other a few times a year and I'd usually see him at Midwest each December. My mother remembers talking to Dr. Fischer one summer as he was checking to see if I'd made a decision on graduate school. She reminded me of what a gentleman he was and seemed just as interested in talking to her as he was to me. Eventually in the fall of 1992 I decided to study with Dr. Fischer at UGA.

Dr. Fischer's birthday is one day after mine. As I write this note I am the exact same age, 41, he was when I started studying with him. After four years of studying with Dr. Fischer in Athens from 1992 to 1996 I moved to Oregon to begin my career as a Professor of Music. In spite of living on the other side of the country I was able to see Dr. Fischer frequently. Five times he traveled to Southern Oregon University, where I teach, to perform and give master classes. Four of those trips were for the Siskiyou Saxophone Workshop. Every other year I would see Dr. Fischer at a NASA conference or World Saxophone Congress. I looked forward to seeing him in March 2010. We had many collaborations yet to explore.

I deeply miss my mentor and my colleague. Rhett Bender