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In Memoriam: Dr. Phil Nimmons, O.C., O.Ont. (1924-2024)

In Memoriam: Dr. Phil Nimmons, O.C., O.Ont. (1924-2024)

Published on April 11, 2024

The Royal Conservatory mourns the loss of the “Dean of Canadian Jazz”, one of Canada's pioneer composers, and RCM alumnus and Honorary Fellow. 

Phil Nimmons
Fondly known as the “Dean of Canadian Jazz”, Dr. Phil Nimmons was one of the great icons in Canadian music history having worked as a prolific composer, bandleader, performer, educator, and visionary in Canadian music. In 1994, Mr. Nimmons was named to both the Order of Canada and Order of Ontario. 
Phil Nimmons was giant in the field of music in Canada and his immense contributions in a wide range of areas had a consequential impact on the lives of millions of people.  He was an alumnus of The Royal Conservatory of Music and his extensive achievements were recognised when he was made an Honourary Fellow of the RCM in 2012. Phil embodied all of the attributes and values needed to succeed in the advancement of the musical art form  - creativity, vision, determination and an absolute belief in the fundamental and essential role of music in human life.
Dr. Peter Simon, President & CEO, The Royal Conservatory

Dr. Nimmons was born in Kamloops and raised in Vancouver, B.C. where he studied at the University of British Columbia before joining the Juilliard School in New York and eventually The Royal Conservatory of Music where he studied composition.  The Royal Conservatory was also where he met his wife Dr. Noreen Liëse Spencer Nimmons. In addition to being a founding member of the Canadian League of Composers that led to the Canadian Music Centre and a lifetime advocate for the preservation of Canadian music with his wife, Dr. Nimmons has over 400 original jazz compositions as a composer and arranger, including several classic works.  

Dr. Nimmons commitment to music education and inspiring generations of professional musicians may very well be unmatched in Canadian arts and culture history as he helped start music education programs at the University of Toronto, Western University, University of New Brunswick, Banff Centre for Fine Arts and the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto with his good friends Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown with whom he also performed.

In 2012, The Royal Conservatory conferred the designation of Honorary Fellow, our highest honour, on Dr. Nimmons. 

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that contributions kindly be made to The Phil Nimmons Legacy Fund which was established with his blessings to support the continued development of new artists.