Athens, Ga. – W. Fred Mills, a renowned trumpet virtuoso and professor in the University of Georgia’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music, has died following injuries in a traffic accident in Walton County on Sept. 7. He was 74 years old.
Mills was returning to Athens following an overseas trip to perform, according to Dale Monson, director of the Hodgson School.
“I have known Fred Mills for 25 years and believe he exemplified the very best as a performer, a professor, and a friend,” said University of Georgia President Michael F. Adams. “The university was blessed by his presence. He was a world-renowned artist who became an engaged citizen of our community.”
A memorial service celebrating the life of Mills will be announced soon by the University of Georgia. Details will be available on the music school’s Web site, http://www.music.uga.edu/.
Mills was born in Guelph, Canada, and began his brass studies on a cornet purchased from a traveling salesman. He studied at the Juilliard School in New York City and went on to play with the American Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony of the Air, the New York City Ballet Orchestra, Musica Aeterna Orchestra of the Metropolitan Museum, the Marlboro Festival Orchestra, the Casals Festival Orchestra, and the New York City Opera Orchestra.
A founding member of the Canadian Brass, he joined the UGA School of Music brass faculty in September 1996. The Canadian Brass originally began by working for the board of education in Toronto through performing for young people in the schools and establishing a brass chamber music program at the Banff School of Music in the Canadian Rockies. As a professor of trumpet and brass chamber music, Mills continued that long-standing commitment to music education. He remained active in faculty and student brass chamber ensembles at UGA as performer, arranger, and coach.
“We in the Franklin College are deeply saddened by the passing of Fred Mills, who was a supreme artist and a superb ambassador for UGA and the college,” said Garnett S. Stokes, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, of which the Hugh Hodgson School of Music is a part. “In the midst of our sorrow, we remember the vibrant and enduring legacy that this man brought to the world through the great gift of his music.”
Mills performed for 25 years in the great concert halls of Europe, North America, and Asia and made more than 40 recordings as a member of the Canadian Brass on the ACA, RCA, Sony, BMG, and Philips labels. He was instrumental in changing the standard repertoire for brass chamber music with more than 50 arrangements and transcriptions for the quintet, including the Toccata and Fugue in D minor by J.S. Bach. During his 25 years with the quintet, the Canadian Brass was recognized as the world’s premier brass ensemble.
“Fred Mills was an inspiration to all who knew him,” said Dale Monson, director of the music school. “One of the finest performers and teachers of his generation, he was at the same time a warm and generous colleague and a dear friend. We have already begun hearing from friends around the world expressing their support and condolences. We will miss him greatly.
“Every morning, at 7:15 a.m., he would meet with the trumpet students to do a daily ‘warm up.’ By late last evening, all of our trumpet students knew of his passing,” Monson added. “This morning at 7:15 they all showed up, because ‘He would have wanted us to be here.’ The Hodgson School will follow that example, moving forward by building on and celebrating the legacy of such mentors and artists as Fred Mills.”
At UGA, in addition to teaching and performing, Mills also coached a graduate brass quintet, the Bulldog Brass Society, which is comprised of graduate assistants specifically selected in a national competition.
In 2001, he was named first recipient of the William F. and Pamela P. Prokasy Professorship in the Arts.