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Jimmerson begins 20th season as director of King Band

Has been part of Karl L. King Band legacy for 63 years

-Photo by Tom Tierney
Jerrold P. Jimmerson conducts the Karl L. King Municipal Band on June 19 at Oleson Park Music Pavilion in Fort Dodge.

In the spring of 1960, at the age of 15, Jerrold Jimmerson walked into Ruth King’s Music Shoppe in downtown Fort Dodge and introduced himself to famed bandmaster and composer, Karl L. King. The introduction led to an invitation to play bass clarinet in an upcoming evening rehearsal, and King liked the talent that Jimmerson brought to the band.

“About halfway through the rehearsal, he stopped the band in the middle of a song and said to Band Manager Arnold Bode, ‘this kid’s pretty good. See that he gets a uniform before he goes home tonight.’ I left rehearsal proudly carrying the uniform that I still am proud to wear today.”

That rehearsal was 63 years ago. Every Sunday evening in the summer, Jimmerson still puts on that uniform, only now instead of playing bass clarinet, he instead picks up the baton and leads the internationally known band as he has for 20 seasons.

“Mr. King had been a tremendous influence in my life and career during the 11 years I played under his direction,” said Jimmerson. “I welcomed the opportunity to give back what he did for me to a new generation of musicians.”

Jimmerson played under King until King’s death in 1971 and then under his college bandmaster, W.B. Green until Green’s passing in 1977. Reginald Schive took over the band for the following 25 years. Jimmerson then moved from the clarinet section to the director’s podium following Schive’s resignation, and today continues King’s legacy.

“I played the bass clarinet in the band for 43 years,” said Jimmerson. “I also play that in the Fort Dodge Area Symphony now, and have played it in the Windjammers Unlimited Band at national conventions in Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Mr. King also used me on clarinet and as bass drummer in his band. I’ve also played alto sax in the Windjammers Circus Band in Florida. One of my biggest thrills was performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, with the King Band during the bicentennial observance in 1976. We also performed at Arlington Cemetery and the Smithsonian on that trip.”

This season, Jimmerson’s 20th at the helm and 63rd as a member, makes him the longest-standing member of the band. Harlan Vande Berg is currently playing in his 50th season in the band. T.H. Hoefing and Mary Heimbruch are also long-time members of the Karl L. King Band as well.

Even with more than six decades of experience under his belt and an extensive music library from King to choose from, Jimmerson said he can’t choose a favorite tune.

“That’s like asking if you have a favorite child,” said Jimmerson. “I enjoy everything we play. I still get chills when we play ‘Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite March’ and ‘Emblem of Freedom,’ both written by King.”

Jimmerson is retired after spending 50 years teaching young musicians throughout Iowa, though now he finds his days filled with planning and creating the weekly King Band performances.

“I break it down by days,” said Jimmerson. “Monday is wind down and then collect my thoughts on the previous Sunday night’s concert. I log everything into my records, and begin writing the next press release, etc. Tuesday I begin researching the songs for the next week’s concert and start to write the announcements. Wednesday is when I begin studying my music for the next concert and marking things on my score, listening to recordings of the pieces, along with sending press releases to area news media and to the Band board. Thursday is when I begin practicing and studying my conducting technique for each piece. Friday and Saturday are more intense conducting and score studying days. Sunday is just polishing and review, usually a quick nap, and then the afternoon rehearsal and evening concert. The cycle starts over again for me on Monday.”

Jimmerson credits his wife, Alice, for aiding him in the daily creative process that keeps him, and the band going.

“There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that nobody, except my wife, ever sees,” said Jimmerson. “She, along with my sons when they were still at home, have been my biggest and most understanding supporters through the years. I could never have done this without them.”

Jimmerson will lead the Karl L. King Band in his 20th season this Sunday at 7:30 pm at the Oleson Park Bandshell. Sunday’s performance will be “A Night in the Middle East” including musical pieces “Arabian Nights,” selections from “Aladdin,” and even Persian march, “Cyrus the Great.”

“I am fortunate to have an assistant conductor, Dan Cassady; band manager and treasurer, T.H. Hoefing; personnel manager, Jeremy Smith; announcer, Paul Bloomquist; set-up crew, Bloomquist and Nick Moore; librarian, Tara Smithl scholarship chairman, Bloomquist; archivist/historian, Nancy Olson; and web site (administrator), Alan Spohnheimer, who all share the work load,” said Jimmerson. “Each concert is a real team effort.”

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