May 20, 1925 - December 20, 2011
Written by Richard DeRosa
Clem DeRosa, surrounded by his family, passed away peacefully in his sleep last night at 11PM CST. He succumbed after a long battle with cancer. An internationally respected musician (educator, professional conductor/bandleader, composer, arranger, drummer, and author), his greatest legacy was as one of the pioneers of jazz education dating back to the 1950s. He was perhaps the first public school educator to instill a solid jazz curriculum and teaching method in the 1950s that became nationally recognized by 1961 (his bands appearing on the Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin TV shows) by producing young high school jazz bands that sounded astonishingly professional. Gil Evans, Johnny Richards, and Billy Byers were just three prominent arrangers who were so impressed with Clem¹s results, that they had his young bands perform and record their arrangements.
Clem was a key founding member of the organization that would become the National Association of Jazz Educators and subsequently grew into the International Association of Jazz Educators. He also worked very closely with Stan Kenton as a faculty member of the Stan Kenton Clinics along with Gene Hall, Leon Breeden and others. Many of his high school students became members of the famed One O¹Clock Lab Bands at UNT (then known as North Texas State College) in the 1960s.
Upon his retirement from music education in 1980, Clem spent most of his career touring the world as a professional bandleader for the Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman orchestras and was also a co-author of several books including ones with Mel Lewis, Dick Hyman, Michael Moore, and Ed Shaugnessy.
A devoted husband, father, and grandfather, Clem is survived by his wife Shirley, his eldest son Richard, his daughter Dianne, his youngest son Gary, and two grandchildren, Martina and Janice.
A longer obituary may be found at allaboutjazz.