Tribute: Mr. Kimmel’s Opus

Rest in Peace.

Plato once said, “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”

And Rick Kimmel knew that better than anyone.

Recognized as a professional trumpet player, Kimmel brought music to life for so many – his students, for sure, and audiences who watched his bands performed or heard the maestro himself play.

A native of Panama City, Florida, he attended Troy State University. He was a band director at Fitzgerald High School, and was the director of the jazz ensembles curriculum and brass instructor at Valdosta High School.

But the one place where I saw him most in action was at Bleckley County High School in Cochran.

A real life ‘Mr. Holland’ from ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus,’ Rick Kimmel during his long career as a band director and teacher, directed, encouraged, mentored and inspired a plethora of students – and several went into the music profession. His opus was far better than Mr. Holland’s. See, Mr. Kimmel’s opus is continuing and never ending – thanks to those he inspired.

His wife and he were probably one of the best music directors in the Bleckley County School System.

Music was at the top of his list of passions – that and his family.

Kimmel was recognized for many things from his students. He was honest, open and a motivator. He would take time after school to work with anyone seeking help with music.

He impacted so many lives, and enhanced the band program to new heights. A former student, Rhett Jarrett, said, in an interview about Mr. Kimmel earlier in the year on this site, ““Mr. Kimmel taught me classical and jazz trumpet in high school. They created a successful music program for Bleckley County.”

Jarrett continued, “Learning music in that culture raised my standards, and allowed me to compete professionally.”

Of his former band director, Chris Cruz, USN Chief Petty Officer (RET), said, “All I can do is remember all the good times we all had together. I’m sure I wasn’t the greatest student they’ve ever had, but they did a fantastic job.”

Cruz said of Kimmel, “he influenced and shaped my life at the most critical time … high school. Numerous times I wanted to walk away from music, from practice and band in general.”

April (Baggs) Kellum was one of the Kimmels’ students too. “Rick Kimmel taught me how to read music in a old portable trailer in the sixth grade. As I grew as a musician, I worked with both Rick and his wife for the next six years.”

His music stand was similar to a preacher’s pulpit, and his baton could be symbolic of a shepherd’s staff as he led his band students with directions and unconditional love.

Richard Dean “Rick” Kimmel, age 71, died Wednesday, February 19, 2020, at his home.

And the heavenly marching band stood at attention with their instruments up as he took his spot in the director’s stand to work on a new opus.

Our prayers are with the family and all who he touched.


Author: rlhwrites

Curator of prose and such.

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