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Frederick Hemke

American Saxophonist

Personal Life

Frederick Hemke was born on the 11th of July in Wisconsin, United States. As a child, he studied with Eddie Schmidt, a band director in Milwaukee and close friend of composer Ralph Joseph Hermann. Hemke was inspired by Schmidt’s recordings of Marcel Mule, Al Gallodoro and Freddy Gardner.  

From 1955 to 1965, Hemke studied Saxophone under Marcel Mule at the Paris Conservatoire National de Musique et de Déclamation, where he holds the distinction of being the first American saxophonist to earn a Premier Prix diploma. In 1958, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in music education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and in 1962, he earned a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music.

At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he studied with Jay Morton, clarinettist Stanley Hasty, flautist Joseph Mariano and oboist Robert Sprenkle. In 1975, Hemke graduated with an A.Mus.D degree


After graduation from the Eastman School of Music, Hemke began as a teaching associate at Northwestern’s School of Music. In 1964, he became an assistant professor and was appointed chairman of the newly formed Winds and Percussion Instruments Department. In 1967, he was promoted to associate professor; In 1975, he became Full Professor, and in 1991, he was appointed as chairman of the Department of Music Performance Studies. From 1995 to 2001, he served as senior associate dean for administration in the School of Music.

Among his students during this time were: Steve Cole, Mark Engebretson, Chico Freeman, Bunky Green, Anders Lundegard, Ryo Noda, Harvey Pittel, Debra Richtmeyer, John Sampen, David Sanborn and his own son, Fritz Hemke.

As a performer, he made his New York debut in 1962 at the Town Hall. From 1962 onwards, he recorded a variety of solo performances, including 1962’s Contest Music for Saxophone, 1971’s Music for Tenor Saxophone, 2006’s Simple Gifts, 2010’s Fascinating Rhythm and 2014’s Premier. He has also worked with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to record various albums, including 1968’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Age of Gold, 1977’s Bolero and 1981’s Final Alice.

Throughout his career, he has won a variety of awards, including the Premiere Prix in 1956; he became a founding coordinator of the North American Saxophone Alliance in 1976, he earned Distinguished Service to Music Medal in 1999 and the Centerstage Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

Hemke passed away on April 17th 2019.


Did You Know?

Frederick Hemke designed his own line of reeds and worked with The Selmer Company to distribute them.

Frederick Hemke

Frederick Hemke Recordings


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