Stewart "Dirk" Fischer

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Stewart "Dirk" Fischer
Birth name Stewart Roussin Fischer
Also known as Dirk Fischer, Dirty Dirk Fischer
Born (1924-09-01)September 1, 1924
Durand, MI, USA
Origin Muskegon, Michigan
Died February 25, 2013(2013-02-25) (aged 88)
Valencia, CA, USA
Genres Big band jazz
Occupation(s) Composer, arranger, music educator
Instruments Trumpet, valve trombone
Years active 1940s-2013
Associated acts Teddy Philips, Little John Beecher Orchestra, Joe Vera Latin Ensemble, Walter Martie, John Paul Jones, Lee Williams et al

Stewart Roussin Fischer (September 1, 1924 – February 25, 2013) better known as Dirk Fischer or Dirty Dirk Fischer[1][2] was an American composer, arranger, jazz educator, trumpeter, and valve trombonist. Before moving to California in 1959, he spent his young adulthood in the Northern Plains, performing with and writing for territory bands booked out of Omaha, Nebraska. He is the brother of Clare Fischer.

Fischer was a faculty member at College of the Canyons, as Jazz Band Director and Instructor of Jazz Studies, from 1977 until February 12, 2005.[1][2]

Growing up[edit]

Fischer was born in 1924 in Durand, Michigan. His mother, Luella Blanche Roussin (maiden), was of French descent, and his father, Cecil Harold Fischer, was of German descent. Both were born in Canada at the turn of the 20th century. Fischer was the oldest of four children, the three oldest being boys, Clare being the third, and the youngest being a sister. His mother played piano, his father played banjo, and his uncle played C melody saxophone. There was always music in his house.

Fischer began playing the trumpet at age 13 and "picked-up" the saxophone the following year. His mother nicknamed him "Dirk" when he was 13, and later, while playing in territory bands, friends endearingly called him "Dirty Dirk."

Fischer graduated from South High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[3]

Just before being drafted into the Army, Fischer and three friends formed a quartet called the Aristocats that played at Club Cherrio in Muskegon, MI. Rich Henry (alto), Fischer (trumpet), Hamilton Allen (piano) (and namesake of a later Fischer composition), Mike Balish (drums). Rich later played with Buddy Morrow and Les Elgart.

US Army[edit]

During World War II, Stewart Fischer was drafted and served three years in the U.S. Army where he worked his way up to the Army Service Forces Bands. He entered the Army at Camp Barkley, Texas, just outside Abilene, where, after basic training, he chose to enroll in cooks-and-baker school. While working for a company kitchen, Fischer began sitting in, both on saxophone and trumpet, with the local Medical Replacement Training Center Band. From there, the Army transferred him from the kitchen to the band. It was at this time that he formed a lifelong friendship with jazz saxophone/clarinetist Al Drootin (b. 1916) from Boston. Eventually, a general, on the recommendation of a warrant officer who headed an Army band at Camp Reynolds, Pennsylvania, pulled Fischer from a pending overseas transfer and, instead, sent him to Camp Lee, Virginia, home of the band training unit for the Armed Forces.

Fischer spent six months at Fort Lee where instructors such as Gil Evans and Sanford ("Sandy") J. Siegelstein (b. 1919) were assigned. There were 250 musicians there, not just American, but from the Allied forces, too. Although Fischer took an arranging course taught by Gil Evans — who had been drafted — he already knew and was practicing what Gil was teaching.[4]

Fischer spent time playing with an all-black military big band in Pennsylvania. When the Army still segregated soldiers by race, music helped Fischer bridge the gap.

1944 Photo, Victory News, Camp Reynolds, PA[5] — 331st Army Service Forces Jazz Ensemble, Camp Reynolds — When a black warrant officer wondered what that white guy was doing in the trumpet section, CWO (band director) Taylor (bandleader) said, 'Can't you tell?'[6] Trumpets: Richard Clark, Dirk Fischer, Oscar Gamby, Jr., Horace Sullivan Lee Turner; Saxophones: Unknown, Henry Kirkland, Jon Micheaux (Bari); Drums: James W. Barnes


Under the G.I. Bill in Minnesota, Fischer studied (i) trumpet with Daniel Benner Tetzlaff (1919–2008), (ii) orchestration with William Muelbe (1888–1966) — both of the Minneapolis Symphony — (iii) tonal materials with Jack Nowicki (né John Francis Nowicki; 1918–2001) — who had studied with Paul Hindemith and Joseph Shillinger — and (iv) 20th Century Counterpoint with Ernst Krenek.

Early career: territory bands[edit]

Early in his career, Fischer had played trumpet and valve trombone several territory bands, all booked out of Omaha by the National Orchestra Service (NOS), including the Teddy Philips, Little John Beecher Orchestra, Joe Vera Latin Ensemble, Walter Martie, John Paul Jones, and Lee Williams, all of which became the outlet for his arranging and compositional skills throughout the late 40s and 50s. Fischer directed some shows and did most of the "special" arrangements, drove the sleeper buses, and the like. He was the road manager for John Beecher as well. After five years Fischer left the Beecher Band September 1959, when the NOS was going out of business.

Some say that he earned the name "Dirty Dirk" when he had the unpleasant job of hiring and firing musicians in one of the bands.

  • Dirk Fischer, Arno Marsh, and Clare Fischer all played together in the Walter Martie Band around 1946-47.


Fischer arrived in Los Angeles in 1959. He spent the next six years struggling to work in the recording studios, doing mostly ghost writing for other composers and arrangers. Very little during this period had his name on it. He did some union contracting for strings and other people in the orchestras, including his brother's recording sessions, and did a lot of copy work, as well.

Having been separated from his first wife for some time, his present wife showed up at the Rams Restaurant, in Los Angeles, where Fischer was working. Fischer hired her in November 1965 and they were married September 5, 1966. They managed to pool their resources and open and operate a little coffee shop in Van Nuys for 14 years called the Owl Coffee Shop. The business enabled both Dirk and Roz to go to school — music credentials for Dirk and nursing school for Roz. After transferring credits earned on the GI bill from a college in Minnesota, Fischer earned credits from Cal State Los Angeles and Cal State Northridge to complete a California Teaching Credential.

A California Teaching Credential, is a certification given in lieu of a traditional diploma, to people with professional expertise and experience who also completed a rigorous number of accredited, collegiate hours for the purpose of teaching at a junior college. To earn this, candidates need strong recommendation letters, too. Three years with Army bands — alongside name musicians, formally trained musicians, and some incredible composers — was the finest music education an 18-year-old draftee could get in the 1943-1946 era. Because Fischer was a formidable writer at the time, the Army gave him all kinds of special considerations that extended well above his formal rank of PFC.

Pioneer Jazz Educator at College of the Canyons[edit]

Even in the 1970s, many major academic institutions and music conservatories had yet to incorporate jazz studies into traditional music pedagogy.[7] Even though there were music institutions with strong jazz programs, finding qualified teachers — those who were at the pinnacle of their field — meant having to draw from the jazz profession, rather than from academia. The College of the Canyons found Fischer by accident. At the suggestion of his wife, Roz, Fischer visited COC as a possible outlet to play his horn and to meet others with like interests. It didn't take long for COC to figure out who he was. In 1977, Fischer became the first Instructor of Jazz Studies at College of the Canyons. At COC, he quickly established a formidable program and built it over twenty-eight years, retiring February 12, 2005. Of the many legacies Fischer built, he spearheaded the first RK Downs Jazz Festival, held Annually at COC.[2][8] Fischer helped build it over the years.


Fischer's compositions and arrangements are performed by jazz ensembles in high schools, colleges, and professional orchestras throughout the United States, the Netherlands, Nova Scotia, and Japan.

Personal life[edit]

Fischer had two sons and a daughter from his first marriage to Lula Frances Leak (b. 1930, married 1948, divorced August 1966, Los Angeles). Lula was a big band singer. His eldest son, Louis André Fischer – a well-established record producer and original drummer with Rufus – is an administrator at McNalley Smith College of Music in St. Paul, MN.

Fischer also had stepsons and a son from his second union of 40 years to Rosalindo ("Roz") Joyce Fischer, former surname Satin, née Baum (b. 1938 - d. 2005). Dirk and Roz were married in Las Vegas on September 5, 1966.[9]

Fischer died on February 25, 2013 in Valencia, California.[1][2] Prior to his death, he had suffered from colon cancer.[1]


Discovery Records (1968)
  • George Stone & Friends perform the music of Stewart "Dirk" Fischer
SeaBreeze Records (2004)
  • Dirk Fischer and George Stone – Coming of Age
Seabreeze Records[permanent dead link] (2011)

Selected Published/Copyrighted Compositions[edit]

UNC Jazz Press
UNC Jazz Press
UNC Jazz Press
UNC Jazz Press
  • Let Me Count the Ways † (Victor Feldman, arr. D. Fischer)
  • Melody for Thelma † (Blue Mitchell, arr. D. Fischer)
  • Our Delight † (Tad Dameron, arr. D. Fischer)
  • Donde (words Barbara Ransom) 1958 | © 1992
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Donde † (instrumental only)
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Cinoton 1959 | © 2007
  • Bitter Leaf: Quintet 1960 | © 2001
  • Calamus † 1969 | © 2001
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Rocl † 1970 | © 2003
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Malookanus Gookum 1977 | © 2007
  • Down, Down, Down 1977 | © 2007
  • Hurry Home † 1978 | © 1995
Walrus Music Publishing
  • And Freckles † 1978 | © 2003
Walrus Music Publishing
  • All Ta' Once 1979 | © 2003
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Sing Dammit! 1979 | © 2003
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Plea for Deductive † 1980 | © 1998
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Escalera † 1981 | © 2003
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Plucky † 1982 | © 1998
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Tonito † 1982 | © 2003
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Omaha Gathering 1983 | © 2007
  • Hamilton Allen Esquire † 1986 | © 1998
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Escalera Numero Dos 1990 | © 2007
  • Heavy Cussin' 1996 | © 2000
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Mambo Estudio 1997 | © 2003
Walrus Music Publishing
  • Conversation © Pending 2007
  • Quartet O' Sax's © Pending 2007
  • Keep Going Charlie
  • Backup (reserves) © 2004 (big band bossa nova, soprano sax feature)
  • Ghostly Chu © 1995 (big band ballad, alto sax feature)
  • Canto © 2007 (big band bossa nova, trombone feature)
(† On the George Stone Album)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Peeples, Stephen K. "COC Jazz Legend Stewart 'Dirk' Fischer Dead at 88". Santa Clarita, California: SCVTV. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Former COC Jazz Band Director Dirk Fischer passes away". Cougar News. College of the Canyons. 2013-02-25. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  3. ^ South High School, Grand Rapids, the alma mater of President Gerald Ford, graduated its last class in 1968.
  4. ^ TV interview of Dirk Fischer by Stephen K. Peeples, December 1, 2004; transcription published January 23, 2005, SCVTV Channel 20, available to Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers of Santa Clarita Valley.
  5. ^ The Victory News was printed by the Record Argus in Greenville, PA.
  6. ^ Eugene Tong, Living, Leading, and All That Jazz Music Teacher Has a Lesson or Two., February 9, 2004.
  7. ^ Ben Ratliff, Juilliard School to Introduce a Jazz Studies Program, The New York Times, April 26, 2000.
  8. ^ The Jazz Festival is named after Robert K. Downs, tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, high school band director, first Music Department Chair at College of the Canyons, big band arranger, and Fischer's credentialing mentor. The first festival was in 1976.
  9. ^ Clark County Recorders Office, Marriage Records, Book 233, pg. 379