|Frederick Alfred Fox, Jr.|
|Date Of Birth:||January 17, 1931|
|Date Of Death:||August 24, 2011|
Frederick Alfred Fox, Jr., a composer and
former professor of music at the Indiana University Jacob School of
Music, died peacefully at home in his sleep on August 24th,
2011. For many years he had been in declining health, which
he endured with humor and without complaint. He was 80.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Ramona,
who cared for him with the doggedness and fierce attention that
only love can bring, and by three sons Brian, Eric (Cheryl), and
Curtis (Kathryn). His two granddaughters (Nora and Zanny) are
too young to have known him in his prime, when his explosive
laughter would shake the house and scare the cats, but they will
eventually internalize the stories about a no-nonsense sacrilegious
man whose presence loomed very large for his immediate family as
well as for friends, colleagues and former students (several of
whom turned out to be all three).
He was a family man, but the center of his life
was always music. He would laugh when Ramona teasingly
reminded him that, not long after they were married, he had told
her earnestly that music, not marriage, would always come
first. Indeed, he was almost always thinking about music, and
had been his whole life.
Fred was born January 17, 1931 in Detroit,
Michigan to Frederick Alfred Fox, Sr., a WWI vet and a carpenter,
and Otha Esther Smith, a homemaker from rural Arkansas. His
ancestry is English, Scots-Irish and German. In his junior high
school there was a good band program and he learned to play
saxophone. By the age of 17, he was taking private lessons from
Larry Teal, and playing in pick-up dance hall jazz bands around
Detroit. (He himself couldn't dance, and said he found it
silly, but his children caught him more than once watching American
Bandstand on TV). Soon he began traveling the Midwest with
touring bands, writing interludes and intros and arranging.
His first love was jazz, but after studying
composition at Wayne State and later at Indiana University (under
Bernard Heiden), his musical interests largely shifted to
contemporary music in the Western classical tradition, with a heavy
jazz inflection. By 1959 he had earned his doctorate in
music from I.U. In 1974, after two academic jobs in small
colleges, a Ford Foundation post in DC, and ten years at Cal State
Hayward (now California State University, East Bay), he was invited
back to teach at I.U., where he spent the rest of his career.
One of his first major undertakings was the founding of the Indiana
University New Music Ensemble, serving as its first director.
Throughout his career, Fred always considered himself a "composer
who teaches," rather than a "teacher who composes." But he did take
teaching seriously, becoming quite close with many of his students
over the years. He also dutifully served as chairman of the
composition department for thirteen years. His office at the
Music School was notable for its collection of what he called "true
American tacky": a boxing nun toy, a velvet portrait of Elvis, an
obscene light switch, etc. He retired in 1997.
Fred considered Béla Bartok to be the main
influence on his compositional style and structure, followed
closely by Anton Webern, then by Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and
Debussy (in that order). Bebop, especially the melodic-driven sound
of Charlie Parker, was also a major influence. He composed
more than a hundred pieces, everything from solos and chamber music
to major orchestral works. His spirit, his personality, and
the very specific tension of his being are very much alive in his
music, for those who care to listen.
There will be no visitation; all arrangements
are private. Memorial contributions may be sent to either the I.U.
Foundation (P. O. Box 6460, Indianapolis, IN 46206) for the benefit
of the Frederick Fox scholarship at the Jacobs School of Music, or
to I.U. Health, Bloomington Hospital Hospice. The family wishes to
thank all the caregivers who attended to Fred's needs over the
years, in particular Traci Inman and Stephanie Newlin.
Allen Funeral Home 4155 South Old Highway 37 is handling the
arrangements and online condolences may be sent to the family at