Nimmons (clarinetist, composer, arranger, and band leader) was born in Kamloops, British Columbia on June 3, 1923, and raised in Vancouver. His life-long career in music began with playing clarinet in high school, and leading a small band in his Point Grey neighbourhood. Nimmons studied at the University of British Columbia 1940-1944 in preparation for a career in medicine. At this time, he played in local dance bands (Sandy DeSantis, Stan Patton, Barney Potts, Wilf Wylie, and Dal Richards) and joined the jazz quintet of the guitarist Ray Norris, where he actively arranged a substantial body of music. He subsequently studied clarinet 1945-1947 at the Juilliard School with Arthur Christmann and composition 1948-1950 at the Royal Conservatory of Music with Richard Johnston, Arnold Walter, and John Weinzweig.
In 1953, Nimmons formed his own jazz band (which took the name Nimmons 'N' Nine in 1957). Early broadcasts on CBC and its concert debut in 1956 at the Stratford Festival marked the beginning of this venture. Through various iterations, including Nimmons ‘N’ Nine Plus Six, this ensemble continued in some form much of the rest of his career. Subsequently, Nimmons has performed with David Braid, billing themselves as Nimmons ‘N’ Braid. In November 2013, Nimmons performed in a concert billed as “Nimmons ‘N’ 90” in celebration of his 90th year. Nimmons joined the University of Toronto in 1973 as instructor in jazz techniques and is now Director Emeritus of Jazz Studies.
Nimmons, and his ensembles, toured widely, including many engagements around the world. Nimmons is known to create works in both the jazz and classical vein. Nimmons was a founding member of the Canadian League of Composers and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. He also founded jazz programs at several schools and universities, including the Banff School of Fine Arts (1970), the University of Toronto (1973), the University of Western Ontario (1978), the Courtney Youth Music Centre (1982), and the InterProvincial Music Camp, near Parry Sound, Ontario (1987).
Nimmons was awarded the first Juno in the Jazz category in 1976 for the recording of his Atlantic Suite (1974) by Nimmons ‘N’ Nine Plus Six. Nimmons has received many commissions including “Transformations” (premiered by Nimmons ‘N’ Nine Plus Six), which was commissioned jointly by the CBC and the Ontario Arts Council for World Music Week Conference (1975), hosted by the Canadian Music Council on behalf of the International Music Council (UNESCO). “Invocation” was commissioned jointly by COJO and the Ontario Arts Council and was premiered by Nimmons ‘N’ Nine Plus Six in the 1976 Olympic Games. “Plateaus: Cartiboo Country Tone Poem,” commissioned by the CBC Vancouver Orchestra and premiered in 1986, was subsequently recorded by that ensemble for CBC Classics. The Olympic Arts Festival of the 1986 Winter Games commissioned “The Torch,” and the work was premiered in Calgary by an Olympic Jazz Band, directed by Rob McConnell.