Dale Kempter

Dr. Dale E. Kempter, a nationally renowned music educator, gently passed away on October 30, 2018, after a long struggle with Lewy Body Dementia. Dale’s lifetime dedication to the music development of youth in New Mexico is reflected by numerous honors and awards, including: New Mexico Music Educators’ Hall of Fame Award, New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in Music, American String Teachers Lifetime Achievement Award, Albuquerque Public School’s Gold Bar Award, State of New Mexico’s Platinum Award, Albuquerque Youth Symphony’s Dale E. Kempter Legacy Endowment Fund, Albuquerque Arts Alliance’s Bravos! Award for Excellence in Music, and having the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Building named in his honor – The Dale E. Kempter Center for Music Education.

Dale was born in 1930 in Lawrence, Kansas, and married Dorothy Woodle in 1956. Dale and Dorothy had three sons: Chris, Kirt, and Peter. Later, in 1981, he married Susan Rhodes, who also had three children: Melissa, Jeffery and Sarah. As years passed their marriage was blessed with nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Dale’s passion for music began early in life. In fourth grade, he was introduced to drums, which he played through his college years, and he made enough money playing in dance bands to pay most of his tuition. When he was a bit older, his school music teacher, Jack Stephenson, introduced him to the cello. Dale liked the drums, but loved the cello, which became a passion.

During his undergraduate work at the University of Kansas, Dale was drafted into the Korean War. Those who knew him could never imagine him carrying a loaded rifle! Luckily, he was selected to play bass and percussion in the prestigious 8th Army Band during his years of service.

After the war, Dale returned to the University of Kansas, where he completed degrees in Music Education and Cello Performance. In 1956, Dale was recruited to teach both band and orchestra in the Albuquerque Public Schools. Over the years, he taught all levels in A.P.S., Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, and the University of New Mexico. These were his formative years. Upon returning to Albuquerque (in 1963) he completed a Masters Degree in Music Education, and later, an Administrative Certificate.

Shortly afterwards he was honored to be asked by Dr. Kurt Frederick, Professor of Music at U.N.M., and avid music educator, to work with a new symphony for younger students. Upon Dr. Frederick’s retirement, Dale became his successor as Music Director and Conductor of the budding orchestra. Soon, the new orchestra was officially named The Albuquerque Youth Symphony.

As an administrator in the Albuquerque Public Schools, music and art education were expanded. He was promoted to Music Supervisor, and ultimately Supervisor of Fine Arts for A.P.S. Under his direction, the Albuquerque Youth Symphony also expanded to four full orchestras – two for middle school students, and two for high school students, plus a Junior String Orchestra and Junior Band.

Dale was admired and loved by everyone who knew him. People felt the love and devotion this gentle man had for students, as well as the music he so carefully selected for them. They also knew that by his example, he was teaching much more than notes. They were learning maturity, discipline, musicianship, camaraderie, and a love of the repertoire they performed. During the nearly fifty years he oversaw the A.Y.S. program, his passion and dedication never waned. Students, past students, and colleagues still recognize his enthusiastic love and devotion - most of whom have passed on his selfless dedication and expertise to their students and colleagues. Today, A.Y.S. alumni are performing throughout New Mexico, the United States, and the world.

As the years passed, he was in demand to conduct All-State orchestras and clinics, speak in local and national conferences, and adjudicate music festivals. His professional travels took him all over the United States, and brought many prestigious educators and musicians here to observe what he was doing in Albuquerque. More recently, the University of New Mexico awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts in recognition of his outstanding contributions in our state.

In addition to his work in the public schools and with the A.Y.S., Dale performed as cellist in the New Mexico Symphony, New Mexico Chamber Orchestra, Amarillo Symphony, Roswell Symphony, and Albuquerque Chamber Music Association. He also conducted the Albuquerque Philharmonic and guest conducted the New Mexico Symphony, and the U.N.M. Symphony Orchestra. He also served on the board of the John Donald Robb Musical Trust, and as board member and President of the June Music Festival – now Chamber Music Albuquerque.

Ever since his move to the Beehive House on Corona sixteen months ago, calls and letters have poured in, and a steady stream of visitors have also brightened his days by visiting and bringing treats. The staff also added to his comfort and good spirits. The family is grateful to everyone who made his (and our) lives easier and brighter.

A celebration of his life will be held in the Simms Auditorium at the Albuquerque Academy on Saturday, December 15, 2018, at 10 o’clock in the morning.

All string players who would like to perform in a “Celebration Orchestra” are warmly invited to play for Mr. Kempter one last time. Selections will be Adagio for Strings, by Barber; Vocalise, by Rachmaninov and Nimrod by Elgar. Stands and chairs will be provided by the Albuquerque Academy, with special thanks to Johnathon Armerding. Music parts, and additional information about the rehearsal can be obtained by going to: http://susankempter.com/memorial.

It was Dr. Kempter’s wish that instead of flowers, contributions be made make to the Dale E. Kempter Legacy Endowment Fund to benefit the Albuquerque Youth Symphony, c/o The Albuquerque Community Foundation, P.O. Box 25266, Albuquerque, NM 87125-5266 or at https://albuquerque-community-foundation.secured.atpay.com/campaign/dale...

Dr. Kempter’s legacy will become legend as those who knew and worked with him continue to honor his humanity, humor, and love of music. His family and close friends knew it was an uncanny occurrence that no matter where he went – from New Mexico, to Texas, to Florida, Germany, England and Ireland – he was sure to hear, “Hey! Mr. Kempter!” …a greeting he undoubtedly heard when he passed through the gates of Heaven!

Photographs of Susan Kempter's Bisiach courtesy of Robertson & Sons Violin Shop