TORONTO — Fred Mills, a Grammy-nominated trumpeter who spent more than two decades with the Canadian Brass, has died.
He was 70.
Mills, who was a music professor at the University of Georgia, died in a single-car crash in Walton County near Atlanta, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Canadian Brass released a statement praising Mills as a “friend and colleague who has left an indelible mark on the music world.”
“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 rivalling the string quartet,” read the statement.
“He was a Canadian treasure who changed the world’s musical perspective.”
Born in Guelph, Ont., Mills began his brass studies playing a cornet, purchased from a travelling salesman.
After studying at the Juilliard School in New York, Mills was a founding member of the American Symphony Orchestra in New York in 1961.
While living there, Mills played with the Symphony of the Air, New York City Ballet Orchestra, Musica Aeterna Orchestra at the Metropolitan Museum, Marlboro Festival Orchestra and Cassals Festival Orchestra.
He made recordings with Morton Gould, Robert Shaw, Igor Stravinsky, William Steinber, and Leopold Stokowski.
For six years, Mills was principal trumpet with the New York City Opera Orchestra and was an active freelance New York musician.
In 1968, he returned to Canada to play with the Orchestra of the National Ballet of Canada and was then appointed solo trumpet with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa.
In 1972, he joined the Canadian Brass and went on to play over 3,500 concerts in Asia, Europe and North America with the group.
As a member of the renowned group, he made over 40 albums for RCA, Sony, Phillips, and BMG. Mills also contributed transcriptions and arrangements to the band’s repertoire that Canadian Brass praised in their statement.
“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,” Canadian Brass wrote.
Mills was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992 before becoming a faculty member at the University of Georgia in 1996. There, in addition to teaching trumpet, he coached a graduate brass quintet, the Bulldog Brass Society.
“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,” read the Canadian Brass’ statement.