Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2018

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Noted piano arranger Brimhall dies

When beginners sit down at the piano, they may very well fix their eyes on one of John Brimhall's arrangements.

Chances are, one or more of Brimhall's publications will rest its back on a family's music stand this holiday season, as a beginner-level musician floors the crowd with the simplified melody of "Winter Wonderland" or "Let It Snow" from Brimhall's "Six Christmas Favorites" arrangement collection.

Through the music in that and similar books, such as "Classics From the Silver Screen" and "An American Salute," Brimhall's memory will live on.

John Brimhall, a composer and song arranger, died Tuesday in Las Vegas at the age of 75.

"(Brimhall) is very popular for the purposes of simplifying things for Level 2 and 3 students," said Stace Taylor, an employee of Family Music Centers in Las Vegas. "What he did was simplify piano solos, very popular songs, that people would like to play, even at a beginning level."

Brimhall's arrangements went on to cover classics such as Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" and Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," along with wedding songs and Christmas classics.

"He did a really good job of creating arrangements that were simple enough for beginning levels, but never sounded clunky," Taylor said. "It still sounded very nice. He wrote really good arrangements."

Taylor added that Brimhall's publications were often books of choice by music instructors and teachers who shop at Family Music Centers.

"Some teachers really just like the way that his music is arranged," she said. "Time Warner has a few composers that are very good at simplifying piano solos. Brimhall was one of them and is certainly one of the most well-known."

A Las Vegas resident of 22 years, Brimhall authored more than 500 books on music composition, theory and performance. His publications sold more than 75 million copies.

Brimhall was born Nov. 22, 1928, in Huntington Park, Calif. He studied at Loyola University, the University of San Francisco and Stanford University.

After completing his master's degree in concert piano performance, he began his career teaching at the high school and then the college level.

In 1963 Brimhall pioneered a new approach to musical education called from "Bach to the Beatles with Brimhall," which became a global success by enabling beginning pianists to play the music of the Beatles while learning the classical lessons of musical theory.

He wrote 17 publications, several of which have yet to be distributed, according to his family.

His music is published by Hansen Publications, Carl Fischer Publishing and Time Warner Music and available at several music stores in Las Vegas and for order online.

Brimhall is survived by his wife of 53 years, Virgie; daughter, Mary Brimhall Ales of Mount Charleston; two sons, Anthony Brimhall of Orlando, Fla., and James Brimhall of Zurich, Switzerland; and six grandchildren.

Visitation will be held Thursday at Palm Mortuary, 1600 S. Jones Blvd., from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. Service will follow at 6 p.m.