Phil Nimmons | Revered Canadian jazz composer and educator dies aged 100, family confirm

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Phil Nimmons, the hallowed Canadian jazz composer who earned Canada’s highest honour, has died at the age of 100

Jazz composer Phil Nimmons, the recipient of one of Canada’s highest honours, has died at the age of 100. His family confirmed on Wednesday that he had died peacefully in his sleep on April 5 2024 at his home in Thornhill, Ontario.

After a "solid hundred years," the news of his death triggered a "tsunami" of responses from fellow musicians, former students, and teachers, according to his daughter Holly Nimmons, who is CEO of the Canadian Music Centre.

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Born on June 3, 1923, in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, Nimmons showed an early interest in music and began his formal training at an early age; he pursued higher education in music at the University of British Columbia before further honing his skills at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

After completing his studies, Phil Nimmons emerged as a significant figure in the Canadian jazz scene. In the late 1940s, he formed "Nimmons 'N' Nine," an innovative jazz ensemble that became a staple of the Canadian music landscape and remained active in various forms into the 2000s.

Nimmons was also a passionate educator who played a crucial role in developing jazz studies programs in Canada. He was instrumental in establishing the jazz program at the University of Toronto in 1973, where he served as a director and professor until his retirement. His teaching influenced generations of Canadian musicians and helped elevate jazz education to a higher standard within academic institutions.

Nimmons's compositions are known for their complexity and creativity, blending traditional jazz elements with modern and experimental sounds, with his work earned him numerous awards, including several Juno Awards, and he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada and was bestowed the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2002, in recognition of his contributions to the country’s cultural life.

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