Making Music in Southern Oregon

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

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One response

  1. Thank you for posting this kind, heartfelt tribute to Dr. Fischer, who was the first college professor I really got to know. I began my studies at UGA in the fall of 1992 as a Saxophone Performance major, a small-town girl from a small-town high school music program (50 total concert band members!) scared out of my wits among all the "serious" musicians at UGA. Dr. Fischer believed in my abilities enough to admit me into the saxophone program, and worked with me through Spring 1993, when I changed my major to English. While I was much happier in my new major (and am now a college English professor), I never forgot Dr. Fischer's kindness and encouragement. I try to treat my own students the way he treated me: holding them to high standards while maintaining a strong sense of compassion–and humor! :-)Rest in peace, Dr. Fischer. We miss you.

    March 25, 2010 at 11:17 pm

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