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April. 10th/2024

Canadian jazz legend Dr. Phil Nimmons, O.C., O.Ont. dies at 100

For immediate release (April 10, 2024): With deep sadness, the family of Phil Nimmons announces that on Friday, April 5th, Phil passed away peacefully at home.  As Phil would say, he has “gone to the land of 2 ‘n’ 4.” He is survived by his children Holly, Carey and Spencer, his grandchildren Sean, Justin, Melinda, Sasha, Phillip, and Colleen, his great-grandchild Atticus, and countless more whom he considered family.

Born in Kamloops and raised in Vancouver BC, Phil, as he would have you call him studied at the University of British Columbia before heading to the Juilliard School of Music in New York, and then to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada where he met his wife Dr. Noreen Liëse Spencer Nimmons.  They became part of a visionary community of musicians who worked to preserve and promote Canadian music, including John Weinzweig, John Beckwith, R. Murray Schafer, Norma Beecroft, Harry Freedman and more. Driven by evolution, Phil worked as a composer, bandleader, performer, and educator and dedicated himself to music in Canada.

Fondly known as the “Dean of Canadian Jazz”, Phil influenced, inspired, and mentored generations of musicians, music teachers and audiences since the 1950’s through his radio shows, recordings, nationwide tours, band clinics, workshops and programs in universities and summer camps. He was a prolific composer and arranger with over 400 original jazz compositions and several classical works. He wrote for his own big bands and small groups, as well as for film, radio, TV, stage productions.

Phil Nimmons was a highly awarded Canadian music icon, including Canada’s highest honour for an artist, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement (2002), Order of Canada (1994), Order of Ontario (1994), a JUNO Award for “Musical Excellence in Jazz” for The Atlantic Suite (inaugural recipient - 1977), induction into the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) Hall of Fame (2001), a Lifetime Achievement Award from SOCAN, the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (2005), a Downbeat Achievement Award for Jazz Education (2006), an Honorary Doctorate from McGill University, the Toronto Arts Award (inaugural recipient -1986) for Creative Excellence in Music and Contribution to Canadian Culture, and the Jazz Report and National Jazz Award for “clarinettist of the year” for thirteen consecutive years (1995-2008).

One of Canada’s pioneer composers, and one of a handful of musicians who solidly established the country’s status in the world of jazz, Phil helped launch major initiatives that to this day, support Canadian contemporary music. He was a founding member of the Canadian League of Composers that led to the Canadian Music Centre. He helped start several music education programs, including programs at the University of Toronto, the Western University (Ontario), the University of New Brunswick and the Banff Centre for Fine Arts. He also adjudicated many bands through Musicfest (formerly known as the Canadian Stage Band Festival). In the 1960s, along with his good friends Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown, he started the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto.

Nimmons was frequently heard on CBC Radio. In the 70’s, CBC would regularly broadcast Nimmons ‘N’ Nine Plus Six performances from high schools after the band had held clinics with the music students.  

For over six decades, Phil Nimmons steadfastly and passionately dedicated himself to students and musicians in Canada, encouraging generations of professional musicians and teachers who contribute significantly to our nation’s arts and culture.

If you would like to honour Phil’s life’s work and support the continuation of his dedication towards generations of new artists, please contribute to “The Phil Nimmons Legacy Fund”, established with Phil’s blessings at the Canadian Music Centre.  

A celebration of Phil’s life and music will be planned in the coming months. For more information about Phil Nimmons and to stay up to date on any public events honouring Phil, go to If you wish to share a memory of Phil or send a message to the Nimmons family, you may do so on the Contact page.

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