My first interview of 2017 was with acclaimed musician, writer, brass instrument teacher, and the coolest 102-year-old I’ve ever met, Fred Fox.
In the 1930’s, Fred studied at the New York Philharmonic with the famed horn player, Bruno Jaenicke. He went on to play in the old Minneapolis Orchestra, The LA Philharmonic, and the sound stage recording orchestras in Hollywood, California. Fred is most famous for his revolutionary horn playing pedagogy and his book, Essentials of Brass Playing, which has been called the bible of brass playing since it was published. You can also find his name on the music building at the University of Arizona, where he legacy and pedagogy lives on as the Fred Fox School of music.
Fred was born on July 14th, 1914, 11 years after the Wright Brothers took their first flight, two years after the Titanic sank, and 14 days before the onset of the first World War. He was a child during the Roaring 20s, was fifteen-years-old when the Great Depression hit, and was a young man of 25 when the second World War started. I felt honored to be sitting down with a man who has lived through some of the most momentous events in history and has contributed to using the power of the arts, music in particular, to promote beauty and harmony in the world.
He has learned a few things in his 102 years on the planet, in particular how to stay healthy, strong and happy. He walks normally without assistance of any kind, is cognitively sharp, and even spends his days lawn bowling. The secret of his longevity, as he explains, is to not allow his body to feel the stress that is in his mind. He also described his healthy mental diet. Similar to toxic food, he spits out unhealthy thoughts and narratives. Fred explained that it is easier than one might think, that we control our thoughts all of the time. He equates it to controlling one’s thoughts during a conversation by thinking about the actual conversation instead of other things.
Our conversation spanned history, philosophy, and of course, the power of art. He asked me if I knew what makes something an art, and before I could answer, he explained,
“You have to live it every time you do it. Living it all the time. That’s the art.”
To see Fred in action, click check out this video of Fred Fox teaching at the University of Arizona:
Here’s another video about Fred receiving an honorary doctorate from the University: