Keith Martin Rasmussen
1953 - 2021
Keith Rasmussen, organist and choir director, taught at the college level and had over three decades of experience in church music. He had extensive experience and success in planning and overseeing major musical events.
Keith was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, on October 15, 1953, one of three sons born to Sherrill and Alice Herwick Rasmussen. He grew up in a setting where music was an important activity in both the immediate and extended family. His father was a lyric tenor and trombonist, an aunt was a professional organist, and an uncle was also a tenor.
Although he started piano lessons at an early age, his real interest was in the trombone. Jay Main, his trombone teacher, helped him become keenly aware of the importance of accurate pitch and intonation. All of his academy teachers - Louise Larmon, Lloyd Fischer, and Gwendolyn Husted - were inspirational and by his junior year at Wisconsin Academy, he was enjoying the time spent in practice, particularly on the organ, and considering the possibility of majoring in music.
During that year, inspired by his visits to Andrews University, where he heard C. Warren Becker playing the organ, Rasmussen made a decision to major in music and after graduating from WA in 1972, enrolled at AU as a music major in keyboard performance. He completed a B.Mus. in 1977 with an organ major, piano minor, and a secondary emphasis in choral techniques.
A year later, he received an M.Mus. in organ performance. Becker was his teacher in both degrees, even though he was on sabbatical much of the time during Rasmussen's year of graduate study. Because of Becker's frequent absences during that year, Keith helped teach organ lessons at the university and organize the music schedule at the church.
He was hired by Kingsway College in Ontario, Canada, in 1978 and would teach there until 1996. In those eighteen years, he taught keyboard lessons, accompanied the choir, became music chair, and taught computer classes for five years. His work in the latter area of teaching led to a quadrupling of student computer usage at the school. During these years he also took organ lessons from David Craighead for ten summers as he continued graduate music study at the Eastman School of Music.
It was during his time at KC that Rasmussen demonstrated an innate flair for organizing major musical events. He served on the board of the Oshawa Symphony as chair of the program committee, organizing the concert season and arranging for performances in various venues. When he left the area, he was made an honorary member of the Oshawa Symphony Association in appreciation for his work. He also organized major choral events for the Royal Canadian College of Musicians and received an award for attracting the greatest number of new members to the Oshawa Centre.
From the beginning of his career, Rasmussen was involved in church music, serving as organist and pianist for the College Park Church at Oshawa from 1978 to 1997 and the Bridge Street United Church in Belleville from 1996 to 2001, where he also directed the choir. He served as organist and choirmaster at the Simcoe United Church in Oshawa for twelve years, from 1984 to 1996.
Subsequent positions included teaching at Albert College in Belleville, Ontario, for a year and serving as full-time organist and choir director at First Presbyterian Churches in Statesville, North Carolina, from 2001 to 2005, and Winter Haven, Florida, from 2005 to 2009. Most recently he served as Director of Liturgy and Music at St. Anthony Parish in Lakeland, Florida, and was Professor of Piano at Polk State College in nearby Winter Haven, a position he held beginning in 2007.
He was living in Ruskin, Florida when he died on July 23, 2021.
Source: IAMA Biography Sheet completed by Keith Rasmussen, February 2011; notice of death, July 24, 2021.