Fred Mills: A Tragic Loss of Our Colleague and Dear Friend
Tonight Gabriel is playing trumpet duets
Members, past and present, of Canadian Brass are sad to inform our friends that Fred Mills died tonight, September 7, 2009. He was a longtime friend and colleague who has left an indelible mark on the music world.
Fred lofted the piccolo trumpet into an indispensable role in the brass quintet, brought a new level of musical quality to the brass quintet repertoire through his arrangements, many of which are now considered absolute standard repertoire and spent over fifty years helping establish the trumpet as a beautiful, lyrical voice amongst solo orchestral instruments.
He inspired so many people as a founding member of the Canadian Brass from its formation. He had a unique ability to communicate through music and on a personal level.
Through the excellence of his performances and the quality of his arrangements he helped lift the brass quintet repertoire from a curiosity to a legitimate and accepted art form rivaling the string quartet.
His dedication and natural talent as a communicator to passing his love of music on to young people is part of his continuing legacy to the international world of music.
He was a Canadian treasure who changed the world’s musical perspective.
Freddie as the little town of Spit Valve’s gunslinger “B-Flat Bart”
Pulitzer Prize winning composer Michael Colgrass, longtime colleague of Fred’s, writes what is perhaps the most direct glimpse into Fred’s wonderful and whimsical personality:
“I recall many good times with Fred, who was my roommate while traveling with American Ballet Theatre in the sixties. Perhaps the most memorable was when we had to drink four double shots of vodka on empty stomachs at an American-Russian good will dinner in Moscow. I turned to Fred and said, “I don’t think I can do this.” Without taking his eyes off the Russian dinner speaker Fred said, “Ya gotta man.” Fred’s implacable sense of social propriety inspired me to gird myself for the test: if he could do it I could do it. Getting up from that table afterward, where wine and cognac was also served, Fred maintained that model posture and comportment he was known for. At the social event that followed he was the perfect gentleman, making conversation and showing interest in everything that was said—even though he, like myself, was totally whacked.
“I’ll miss that good-natured man. There’ll never be another exactly like him.”
Tonight I lost a brother, one of my dearest friends and a person whom I don’t have words to thank for the help he offered not just me in my career, but all of us in the trumpet world, in the brass world and in the music world. Fred, my family and I will never forget you. Rest in peace, see you the next time around.
I love you Fred.
Professor of Trumpet
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign