Hemke received his Bachelor of Science degree in music education from University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1958. He earned the Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in 1962, and earned the A.Mus.D. (doctor of musical arts) degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1975.
In September 1955 he began studies with Marcel Mule at the Paris Conservatoire National de Musique et de Declamation in Paris, France. He earned the Premier Prix in 1956, becoming the first American saxophonist to earn this distinction.
Since 1962, Hemke has been the professor of saxophone at the Northwestern University School of Music in Evanston, Illinois. He currently serves as Louis and Elsie Snydacker Eckstein Professor of Music and Associate Dean of the School of Music. In this position he has taught hundreds of saxophonists, many who have gone on to become teachers in their own right. His students teach and perform in teaching and performing positions throughout the world.
His students include:
- Roger Birkeland, Professor of Saxophone, Elmhurst College
- James Bishop, Professor of Saxophone, Stetson University, DeLand, FL
- Ron Blake, Professor of Jazz Saxophone, Juilliard School of Music
- Dave Bomberg
- Paul Bro, Professor of Saxophone, Indiana State University
- David Dees, Professor of Saxophone, Texas Tech University
- Jonathan Helton, Professor of Saxophone, University of Florida
- Eric Honour, Professor of Music, Director of Music Technology, University of Central Missouri
- Jeremy Justeson, Professor of Saxophone, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
- Gail B. Levinsky, Professor of Saxophone, Susquehanna University
- Anders Lundegard, international performer
- Joseph Murphy, Professor of Saxophone, Mansfield University of Pennsylvania
- Nathan Nabb, Professor of Saxophone, Stephen F. Austin State University
- Ryo Noda
- Scott Plugge, Director of the School of Music, Professor of Saxophone, Sam Houston State University
- Debra Richtmeyer, Professor of Saxophone, University of Illinois
- Timothy Roberts, Associate Professor of Saxophone, Shenandoah University
- Johnny Salinas, Professor of Saxophone, TBA
- John Sampen, Professor of Saxophone, Bowling Green State University
- David Sanborn, international jazz performer and recording artist
- Masahito Sugihara, Professor of Saxophone, Morehead State University
- Naomi Sullivan, Professor of Saxophone, Birmingham Conservatoire
- Shawn Tracy, Professor of Jazz Saxophone, Merit School of Music
- Jason Fritts, Teacher and Performer
- Stephen J. Parker, Teacher, Performer, Naples philharmonic
- Jeremy Williamson, Teacher, Seminole State College & Seminole County Public Schools
- Dan Ferri, Teacher & Owner, DRF Studios, Maitland, Florida
- Jan Berry Baker, Assistant Professor of Saxophone, Georgia State University
He has edited a substantial collection of music for saxophone solo and ensembles, most of which is published by the Southern Music Company. He has authored many articles and educational materials. Hemke is well known as the designer of a line of reeds which bear his name. Rico Reeds began making "Frederick L. Hemke" brand saxophone reeds in 1982.
He is an artist-clinician for The Selmer Company, a well-known manufacturer of saxophones, based in Paris, France. In 1979 Hemke was host for the Sixth World Saxophone Congress held at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. Guillermo Hemke Gastelum
Hemke is an internationally acknowledged saxophone player, and he has appeared as a soloist in addition to giving master classes and lectures in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, and the Far East. He has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and many other orchestras. He has given the premiere performances of several works for saxophone, including Allan Pettersson's "Symphony No. 16" and James Di Pasquale's "Sonata for Tenor Saxophone."
Recordings and publications
In 1975, Hemke's doctoral dissertation, The Early History of the Saxophone, was published. It explores in depth the saxophone's history and gradual acceptance in the realm of symphonic music.
Among his solo releases are:
- "Music for Tenor Saxophone" (1975) Brewster Records
- "Simple Gifts" (2006) Saxo Records
- The American Saxophonist (2006) Saxo Records
- The American Saxophone Brewster Records
- Contemporary Music for Saxophone—Lapider Records
- (need names of other recordings)
He is featured on several recordings, including:
- Allan Pettersson's “Symphony No. 16” with Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra (Ahronovitch) Swedish Heritage Discophile
- “Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra of Wind Instruments” by Ross Lee Finney with the Northwestern University Wind Ensemble (John Paynter) on New World Records
- Quintet for Saxophone and String Quartet by Warren Benson with the Kronos Quartet on SRI Records
- Incantations by Ralph Shapey, University of Chicago Contemporary Players (Shapey) on Nonesuch Records
- Concerto for Saxophone and Winds by Paul Creston with the Interlochen Arts Academy Wind Ensemble on Interlochen Arts Academy Records
- Concerto for Saxophone and Wind Orchestra by Ingolf Dahl with University of Wisconsin–Madison Wind Ensemble (H. Robert Reynolds) on University of Wisconsin–Madison Records
- He has recorded with the Eastman Wind Ensemble, and the Contemporary Chamber Players.
- He appears on six recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:
Numerous pieces have been written for him or dedicated to him, including:
Awards and honors
- In 1956, Hemke became the first American to be awarded the Premiere Prix du Saxophone at the Paris Conservatory. He received the Kappa Kappa Psi Distinguished Service to Music Medal. He was appointed the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University. He served as president of the North American Saxophone Alliance and was later awarded Honorary Life Membership in that organization.
- Faculty Profiles, Northwestern University School of Music
- Dr. Frederick L. Hemke
- Northwestern University
- Music Web
- Kappa Kappa Psi (2011). "Distinguished Service to Music Medal" (PDF). In Smith, Nick. Guide to Membership for the 2011–2013 Biennium. Stillwater, OK: Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma. pp. 57–9.