WASHINGTON - Keith M. Zimmerman, 74, of Washington, IL passed away Sunday, June 13, 2020, at his residence. He was born on October 24, 1945, in Peoria, Illinois, to Elmer V. and Pauline M. (Scudder) Zimmerman.
After graduating from Washington Community High School, he attended Wartburg College for one year and received his Bachelor of Music Education from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1967. He pursued graduate study at Ball State University as a saxophone student of American concert saxophone pioneer Cecil Leeson as a candidate for Master of Music, saxophone performance. He studied in masterclasses and lessons with Canadian concert saxophonist Paul Brodie. His Master of Music degree in saxophone performance was completed in 1970 at Illinois Wesleyan University. He then did four semesters of extensive post-graduate study in France as a saxophone pupil of Daniel Deffayet, saxophone professor, Paris National Conservatory, on scholarship from the French Ministry of Culture in 1971, 1973, 1974, and 1981 earning two certificates for his study, the highest level a foreign student over the age of 22 could then achieve.
After 33 years as director of the highly acclaimed wind ensemble and jazz band in Lincoln, Illinois, district 27 schools in 878 public performances where he also mentored 22 student teachers from ISU, U of I, and Illinois Wesleyan, he semi- retired in May 2000 to focus on his work as a university saxophone teacher and concert artist. A Paris Selmer saxophone artist/clinician for The Selmer Company, he conducted over two hundred workshops and clinics in public schools and colleges in many states. He had worked repeatedly on call as lead alto saxophonist for Ringling Brother Circus in the 1980s and 90’s. He taught saxophone and music education at Illinois Wesleyan University for over four decades, beginning in the late 1970s and taught music theory and saxophone at the Illinois Wesleyan University Summer Music camps for 25 years. In August of 2000, he answered a call to serve on the faculty of Bradley University as saxophone professor and to develop a saxophone studio and saxophone ensembles in addition to his Illinois Wesleyan University teaching. He discontinued teaching at Wesleyan September 3, 2013 but continued to teach at Bradley in an ever-expanding role and see numerous dedicated private students.
In 1972 he and four friends founded the Illinois Saxophone Quintet, the world’s only professional saxophone quintet, which he continued to lead through various personnel changes until the group ultimately consisted of himself and selected former Bradley University saxophone students of high achievement.
From 1974-2000 he maintained a woodwind private teaching practice in Lincoln Illinois and since 1966 had been a private saxophone and clarinet teacher in Bloomington and Washington, Illinois, to gifted high school students from a large area of central Illinois many of whom played in district festival and Illinois All-State bands as a result of winning competitive auditions.
As a saxophonist and teacher, his reputation as an international one and he had appeared as a recitalist on soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone in many states of the US and France, Canada, England, and Germany in over 850 solo and chamber ensemble concerts. A founding member of the World Saxophone Congress and the North American Saxophone Alliance, he frequently was asked to perform at regional, national, and international meetings. In 1994 he was asked to join the Pekin Park District Concert Band as principal alto saxophonist, a position he retained to the present performing about 12 times a year with them.
An avid fisherman, he spent several weeks each summer in northern Minnesota beginning from infancy onward. Beginning in 2015, he became a partner in Maple Ridge Resort, Bigfork, Minnesota, with close friends Lyle and Kathy Enger and began spending seven or more weeks a year there.
He was a career member of the Music Educator’s National Conference and Illinois Music Educators Association and frequently chaired district committees, and from 1974-present was saxophone auditioner for Illinois All-State Bands. He was a life member of the Illinois Education and National Education Associations and treasurer from 1993-2000 of the Lincoln, Il. LEEA affiliate where he had also served as a union negotiator.
A cover photograph and feature story 5000-word interview in the January/February 2002 issue of “The Saxophone Journal,” an international publication, extensively profiled his saxophone teaching/playing career. He was honored again in the May/June 2012 “Saxophone Journal” with a cover photograph and an 8000-word interview becoming only the 5th person to be profiled twice in the 36-year history of the publication.
In 2017 he released a solo saxophone CD with pianist Andrea Molina called “Expressions” on the Jeanne’ label and a CD of his Illinois Saxophone Quintet called “The Illinois Saxophone Quintet” also on the Jeanne’ label.
A life-long member of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Washington, Illinois, he had also served on the church council and been a regular in contributing his music to various services, including Christmas Eve services for several decades.
In 2013 Keith and his father, as a memorial to mother and wife Pauline Zimmerman, gifted the Washington Police Department with the funds to purchase and train the community’s first canine officer and paid for the construction of a kennel at the handler’s home, set up an account for incidentals, and purchased a fully equipped police car for the canine program. In 2018 he purchased a replacement for that vehicle and continued to support the program in his parents’ memory.
Private services will be held with burial at Glendale Cemetery in Washington. Memorials may be made to Tazewell Animal Protective Society (T.A.P.S.) in Pekin, or St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Washington. Mason-White Funeral Home in Washington is assisting with arrangements. Notes of condolences may be sent using www.masonfuneralhomes.com.
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