Fred Sturm: consummate artist, master educator, visionary, mentor, life-changer, jester, compassionate friend. I am who I am because of him. I do what I do because of him. His influences on me are too numerous to count and too deep to fathom. He saw potential where others saw nothing. He steadfastly held to that vision even as I doubted. Over a thirty year arc, he never let me give up on what he knew I could become. My story is just one of thousands. What an astounding legacy for an astounding man if we each commit to believing in others as he believed in us. What greater way to honor his memory than to help others realize their full potential as he helped us reach ours? As the light of this amazing man’s life is extinguished, his firmament is filled with the thousand blazing lights he ignited in all of us.
Farewell and thank you, my friend.
Brian Pertl '86, Appleton, WI
What a role model, what a friend. Fred spread enthusiasm to all, me when I needed it. I learned by his example about teaching. Fred was always supportive and positive in his approach to me, even when I knew he was just cheerleading me to do better. His wings have spanned oceans and his influence is beyond measure. I will miss you terribly, Fred.
Thomas Stone '79, Shreveport, La.
I experienced Fred Sturm’s extraordinary teaching as a performer and a student in his Jazz Pedagogy course. Jazz Ped was two hours every Wednesday to sit and watch Prof. Sturm coach high school groups while he encouraged us classical-only folks to jump in with comments and solos on secondary instruments. No homework, no tests, but somehow it was one of the most influential classes I’ve taken. His magical way of working could coax a shy high school freshman into taking a first solo and feeling great about it afterwards. Kids who had never improvised in their lives left that room playing up and down the blues scale. What I felt in that class and also the ensembles under Professor Sturm (the Bobby McFerrin concert, Ike Sturm’s Jazz Mass at First Congregational Church) was an atmosphere of instant calm and joy the moment he entered the room: that life was great, and our work together was going to be great, because we were in the hands of a master who never failed to guide us to a higher plane of existence, all with a smile, a joke, and some serious grooving.
Abigail Wagner '13, Vienna, Austria
When I came to Lawrence Univ. in Fall 1979 the Conservatory of music was barely known outside the Midwest. When I traveled back to the east coast people thought I was either referring to Lawrence, Kansas or St. Lawrence in upstate NY. Did that ever change and no one man did MORE than Fred to bring not only NATIONAL, but international awareness of the Conservatory and put it on the map. That in itself would be enough for an individual to have accomplished in one lifetime. But it was only the tip of the iceberg. He brought to campus just about every important living jazz artist in the country even having Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie appear on the same concert! In recent years he championed the Radiohead recording project here and brought Maria Schneider, Bobby Mcferrin and the Gil Evans project to campus---all while he was undergoing chemo treatments!!!!
I have NEVER seen ANYONE (and I've observed countless people) direct a jazz band as well, Fred not only addressed every aspect of the music with fire and passion and knowledge but with appreciation for the gifts and historical contributions of an Ellington, Monk, or Gil Evans. They were his heroes and he didn't just teach...he shared it with enthusiasm, energy, and vitality. He pointed out things to every section in the ensemble and articulated his comments in an encouraging and always supportive way. I repeat I've never seen this done as well by ANYONE else! I'm still only getting to the surface here---what a composer and arranger...just go to his website and you'll be amazed by his vast gifts, creations, recordings,
and works! That too could have filled a lifetime for one individual.
But this again, is only a small part of his story--his love for teaching, mentoring, encouraging, and supporting 100's of students and friends even all through the ten years of his courageous battle with cancer.
His wit, love of baseball, the Cubs and Packers, and his jokes were legend
and we shared some great times. On a personal note he called us "chemo sabes" as I had survived two cancers in the last 6 years. He always asked about MY health status and only commented on his own if I asked him about it. We see all sorts of people posting their accomplishments, where they've been, etc. but you never saw that from Fred. He only posted family
pics as he adored Sue, Ike, Maddy, and his grandkids or he spoke of his former students and friends and THEIR accomplishments. The man didn't know how to spell ego! He was a giant in our otherwise trying world of today. He faced the most courageous health battle of anyone I've ever known and did it with DIGNITY, optimism, and a positive spirit. I've known no other quite like him but we all have gained immeasurably from his time on planet earth as he enriched our lives and made the world a better place. May he rest in peace.
Bob Levy, Greenville, Wis.
I love Fred for all the musical passion he passed on to me as his "favorite" student. (This is how we all felt, isn't it?") I've tried to model my teaching after his. I even went back to LU to shadow him for a day once I became a director of my own jazz program. I wanted to make sure my childhood memories of teaching greatness were founded. Fred did not disappoint. His musical impact is well documented among these wonderful memories given by friends, students and colleagues.
However, I would like to share a different connection I had with Fred that was perhaps even more profound for me. I wrote to Fred in May, to tell him I was diagnosed with cancer. He wrote back in about 45 seconds with an email as long as your arm. His email was full of hope and optimism, saying things like "you may not believe this now, but this could be the most profound thing that has ever happened to you and great things will come of this!" A couple of weeks ago I decided to check in and give him an update and tell him that 'once again', he was right. I wanted to tell him how I thought about what he had written and what a difference it made in my life. I don't know if I would have been able to see through my self pity to realize a grander overall view of a life altering event, like cancer. I wanted to tell him that my view of life will now forever be different. I wanted to tell him how he now influences my students. I wanted to tell him "I love you, Fred."
David Cooper '87, Madison, Wisc.
I grew up in Oconomowoc, WI, and knew Fred from church and at high school. I recall going to an assembly in our gym; it was my first exposure to jazz band. I listened and watched the drummer, trumpeters, saxophonists, etc. move to the music and thought, "This sounds like my dad's records." RIP, Fred. You stirred us up!
Kathleen (nee Rea) Hannah, Appleton, Wisc.
Fred Sturm wasn't the reason why I went to Lawrence, but after taking his jazz arranging class, he was the reason why I stayed: he taught this class with the perfect combination of inspiration, intellect, humor, and high expectations. He set the bar so high in all ways, yet made the bar seem totally reachable, and you knew it was going to be a gas once you got there. His love of jazz, teaching, composing, but above all community was unparalleled. Fred knew how to bring people together. He was truly a mentor to me in all ways. Fred changed my life, pure and simple.
When asked: "how do you find time to write AND teach?". he said: "I wake up every morning
really early, every day, and write". This is one tough mantra, but one that will keep me motivated for the rest of my life.
Fred's legacy will live on for years to come. We owe it to him (and to ourselves) to keep his exuberant spirit within us, strong and pure.
My heart goes out to Susie, his family, friends, and colleagues.
Laura (Van Nostrand) Caviani '84, Minneapolis, Minn.
I met Fred for the first time in August 2001 when he conducted two concerts with the Frankfurt Radio big band (called hr Big Band) presenting the music of Astor Piazzolla. He had written all the arrangements for the band and they were just gorgeous. I had the honor and the pleasure to present these concerts. It was wonderful to work with him on stage. We understood each other so well from the very first moment. Beside his immense musical skills he had such a great sense of humor. Two years later he recorded another CD with the same band called "Do it again" with the music of Steely Dan. It's still one of my favorites. In fall 2008 I stayed in Appleton for some days with my friend Marty Erickson. We went to Fred's class and it was such a warm welcome by him. I had the chance to watch his work with the class for a moment. This was a just wonderful and very impressing to me. I'm so grateful to have met him and I'll keep him in my mind forever as a fantastic arranger, bandleader, teacher and wonderful human being.
Werner Lohr, Frankfurt, Germany
We could spend a hundred lifetimes on earth and never come across someone like Fred Sturm. His contributions to the jazz repertoire are vast and brilliant; his ability to teach, with unparalleled enthusiasm and wisdom unlocked a whole new world for all of us who were fortunate to study under him.
However, I will miss his inner fire and boundless love the most. It is my sincere belief that he was a gift from God, a unique grace and a huge blessing to all who encountered him. I always tried to keep the conversation going longer than I should have, because I never wanted to part. I know I tried his patience, but I just couldn't help myself.
I was fortunate enough to get to spend a lot of time with him the summer of 1984 when he hired me to help paint his house. We would chat about anything and everything while he held my ladder as I scraped paint 25 feet up in the air. I also spent a few afternoons with him when I came back to visit LU during the summer after I graduated. I find myself wishing I had those times to live over; to ask better questions, to get his opinion on this or that, or simply to tell jokes and eat vegetarian smoothies while we watched the day go by.
Thank you Fred, for everything. The advantage you (and Mr. Levy my trumpet teacher) gave me at Lawrence seems almost unfair. It is my sincere hope I honor your investment in me for the rest of my life.
Also - thank you Suzie, Ike, and Madeline. Thanks for sharing this wonderful man with the rest of us for so long. I know that, at times, it couldn't have been easy. I know how hard it must be right now for all of you. You are all remembered in my prayers.
God Bless Fred Sturm.
Mike Barry '85, Marietta, Ga.
Fred was the best teacher I ever had. The New Stories CD we recorded with LUJE in 1991 was a highlight, as well as the numerous summer gigs we did together. Great memories of a great man.
Mike Nugent '92, Chicago, Ill.
I am so proud to say that Fred was a devoted friend of mine for over 30 years. His artistry, good humor, positive energy and genuine enthusiasm for us all as musicians and human beings was exemplary. All of us at the Eastman School of Music join with the entire Lawrence family as we celebrate Fred, while hold Suzie, Ike and Maddy close to our hearts. We appreciate Lawrence letting us "borrow" Fred and his wonderful family from '91-'02. The impact he made at both our institutions was so genuine and meaningful. Here's to "A Place Where it Will Always Be Spring"! We love you, Fred!
Mark Kellogg, Rochester, N.Y.
Fred was – and will continue to be - an amazing role model in so many ways for so many of us! His friendship changed my life – as it did for countless others! His wonderful, comprehensive legacy will surely endure!
Cliff Gribble, Milwaukee, Wisc.
I did not know Fred as well as many, but he left a lasting impression on me. I took his jazz theory class sophomore year at Lawrence. As a string player with little jazz training the class was very challenging for me. It was also an intimidating environment as I was the only string player, and also the only female in the class. But Fred made me feel welcome and always encouraged me to share my thoughts, opinions, talents, and questions. He treated everyone with respect, but he also challenged us to think and play at the highest level. I think this is because he saw the best of what we could be if we applied ourselves. I will always be grateful for this learning experience. Thank you Fred for always encouraging your students to be the best musicians, academics, and human beings you knew we could be.
Carolyn Desrosiers '10, Appleton, Wisc.
Fred was my teacher, director, and boss at different times during my studies at Lawrence. More importantly though, he was an inspiring human being whose presence and guidance I was lucky enough to experience.
It's difficult, maybe impossible, to put into words the tremendous meaning that Fred had in so many people's lives. Every encounter with him, whether in a lesson, a rehearsal, or just passing in the hallway, was one that was full of his infectious joy and kindness. He had a way of making you feel like the most important person in the world, or of humbling you in a single comment, and all with a smile and presence that was complete comfort, understanding, and wisdom.
Alexv Rolfe '12, Dekalb, Ill.
I remember the first time I saw Fred Sturm. It was the spring of 1973, I was in 6th Grade, and attending the third ever Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE) concert. John Harmon was the director; a young Fred Sturm was in the trombone section. Even then I remember him as this towering presence, with a smile that seemed to fill most of the stage! When he and many of the others of that original LUJE class formed the group Matrix with John Harmon, I was an avid fan. Years later, Fred tired of the road and came to Lawrence as its jazz instructor. As a high school junior, I audited Fred's jazz improv class at the Con and learned things that remain with me to this day. While at Lawrence as an undergraduate, I did not study with Fred but of course encountered him regularly in the halls of the Conservatory. He was always friendly, supportive, and interested in how my life was going. I remember him as a man who exuded joy -- in music, life and humanity -- and I feel the richer for having known him.
Andy Buelow '84, Tacoma, Wash.
Fred was always such a dear, dear friend with this generous soul I’ve not ever known before. I can’t imagine you would ever be able to find anyone who would have a bad thing to say about him as this tribute site clearly illustrates. Through the years I would ask my son, “how is Fred doing?” and he would sometimes answer “not good”. Then I would see Fred and he’d be this same vibrant force, always with a big smile and that glint in his eye and in that moment I'd forget what he was battling. I‘d think to myself if ever there was someone that could beat the odds because of his state of mind, he was the one. And we were gifted with extra time with him because that spirit - just not enough - but no amount of time would have been enough.
I hope his family finds comfort that Fred will live on vicariously through all the musicians he has cultivated and influenced through the years. I know we won’t ever forget him in our house. We can’t ever pay back what he so generously gave freely to my son – but I know my son will pay it forward someday. I have every confidence it will happen not only because of my son’s dedication and talent but because of the many, many things Fred taught him as well as his unfailing encouragement. Then because Fred not only taught but also gave many opportunities to showcase what was learned, the confidence he had instilled in my son would convert to wonderful performances where the music just flowed from him as naturally as taking a breath. Fred made it so easy for all to want to learn more and as result they did learn more – and while I didn’t ever actually see him teaching – I just saw the result in my son and all the others in Fred’s influence. Any time my son’s talent is recognized I know he will most assuredly give Fred the credit he so richly deserves and that whatever he has created will further provide more of the legacy of Fred with beautiful music for all to enjoy.
Jan Marschke, Mokena, Ill.
Boy, what a man. Fred Sturm never directly instructed me although we did have our talks about jazz. Because of this, all my memories of Fred are more personal and less academic. Fred had a way of smiling that made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. I remember during my audition I had to play an improvised solo. Being the not very confident improviser as I was, I thought I was going to freeze up. As soon as I saw Fred's smile, all that fear, all that tension just melted away. His presence is able to fill all those empty holes in your heart until you are overflowing with life. If there is one man that I would model my life after, it is Fred. Thank you for everything you have done, Fred. You have been such an inspiration.
Mitchell Nelson '16, Waterford, Wisc.
I walked into my first class at jazz fantasy camp as an adult who had never played jazz piano and hadn't played much piano of any kind for 25 years. I was petrified. Fred's enthusiasm and belief that our little ensemble could make music together was infectious. Within 5 minutes we were laughing and before an hour had gone by I was playing Mr. PC on the piano with the rest of the ensemble. I walked out of the class glowing with happiness, excitement and inspiration. Every interaction I had with him over the next 10 years of jazz camp was like that. Fred is love and inspiration.
Susan Weinschenk, Edgar, Wisc.
The passing of Jazz educator and human being extraordinaire Fred Sturm has inspired so many of my friends and colleagues to express their gratitude for the honor and pleasure to be inspired by his creativity, positive attitude and selfless humility. Fred student taught with my father, Sam Ostwald (also an LU grad), at Einstein Junior High School in Appleton. I remember rehearsing with a jazz combo in the Lawrence University Jazz Annex (read, dilapidated repurposed house) on January 28, 1986, at age 18, when Fred crossed the hall from his office into the rehearsal room to tell us about the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger crash that had just occurred. This moment was just one of many where he was able to instantly communicate the big picture to some young people. His expression, his choice of words and his own personal feelings taught us about life, death, tragedy, hope and purpose in ways that stuck with me for decades. In just a few minutes he humbly shared in such a way that we all gained perspective and comfort. I remembered that experience when it was time for me to face my classroom of students on September 11, 2001. Whatever went well in my classroom that day is just a tiny example of what Fred has done and will continue to do for infinite generations of students, students of students, children of students, etc.
Ray Ostwald '89, Lombard, Ill.
Fred and I shared a love of all things music and baseball...and it was Fred's vision that he and I create "The Baseball Music Project" in 2005 together with Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of all the musical moments in my life, none was more poignant than when Dave Winfield and I stepped onto the stage with the Fox Valley Symphony.in Appleton with Fred in the audience (along with Tony Kubek). That night, the home town got to witness Fred's genius. I am eternally grateful to him. Fred was that rare true (yes true!) giant among men. He was the laughter of Babe Ruth and the stoicism of Lou Gehrig. Fred, I know you are in a place where it is forever spring, and the universe is truly a field of dreams. You, my friend, are eternal.
Robert Thompson, New York, N.Y.
I first met Fred back in the early 80's, when I was an undergrad at UW-Madison. His enthusiasm for the writing and playing jazz was memorable during our conversation. A few years ago, I heard his arrangement of a Steely Dan tune performed at the University of Miami-Coral Gables via a live web stream. I emailed him to ask where the score could be purchased, and he promptly emailed it to me free of charge. That was Fred, and he'll be missed.
David Stoler, Madison, Wisc.
Fred had an uncanny sense of how to program concerts - juxtaposing everything from Bix to Ellington to Lyle Mays and Brookmeyer (& his fantastic arrangements once in a while). His concerts flowed with history - never forgetting where we came from and questioning always where we are (were) going. He was fearless, hilarious (the BEST dirty jokes), bright as hell, jovial, almost like the Santa Claus of Jazz - you just wanted to share the music with him and he'd give you presents that last a lifetime. We just lost Robin Williams (who I didn't know) and Fred (who influences me now) in the same month: What I'll miss so profoundly about both is that I always was paying attention to what they were gonna do next. Robin W. on "Letterman" or Fred working with McFerrin again - these were events that captured my attention and I always tried to tune in - both to learn something and to be inspired by greatness. Both will never be replaced because both were unique.
Steve Edwards '85, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The following letter is an attempt to express the significance of your presence in my life and how grateful I am to have been able to spend so much time learning from you and sharing so many beautiful moments. Your perfect combination of wit, wisdom, passion, and poise serve to inspire me and anyone who crossed your path. In reflecting on your skills as a teacher I came to understand that not only do you sow your passion and knowledge amongst your pupils but you embody the musician and human being that you teach us all to be. To succeed under your direction, one only needs to follow your example and the path of least resistance is revealed. This was most obviously demonstrated to me during those times when you were away traveling, seeing doctors, or recovering from illness. Each time, the chorus running through rehearsals was, “What would Fred say?” Even though you did not get to witness these moments, it was a sign of how influential your teaching has been and how infectious your passion is for all of the folks that you have directed over the years.
Perhaps the most significant memory of LUJE for me was sitting on stage during the Alan Ferber concert and looking out into the audience to see you beaming up at the band of hooligans you spent the last months and years taming and shaping. In that moment I truly came to understand how for you how music and community and love are all rolled into one and that your main goal in life is to spend every day living your passion for excellence in each of these.
Who knows what the future holds for me but I know that I will always be carrying a part of you in my heart as I do my best to live a good life the way you and my many heroes have demonstrated. I know I will always be playing and teaching music and taking full advantage of the hundreds of lessons you taught me these past four years. Keep on joking and jamming and getting into all kinds of shenanigans. I know how hard it is for you to resist.
With all my love, respect, and gratitude,
Matthew Lowe '14, Appleton, Wisc.
It was an honor, a pleasure, a privilege, and a blessing to have known and worked with such a kind, warm spirited human being like Fred Sturm and I am without a doubt a better person because I knew him. It breaks my heart to think of walking into the conservatory at Lawrence knowing that I won't get to see his unforgettable smile that would more than likely accompany a clever, witty joke. I will miss you, Fred. You have truly been an inspiration to me and you will forever be in my heart. Thank you for everything.
Emily Karl '14, De Pere, Wisc.
Now, there is such a sweet "silence" in our musical world; this giant of a man has been elevated to his rightful place in all of our hearts, and I know that my life was better for knowing him.
So blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him on "Breathing" for Wind Ensemble - and the good that that project served.
Tom Davis, Canandaigua, NY
What I think I loved most about Fred Sturm was his pedagogical way with words. I remember we were rehearsing for Witnesses, and the saxophones were not performing quite like he wanted. He said, with his bright eyes and moustached smile, "Now play it again like you got twinkies in your pockets."
I don't think anyone knew what that even meant, but sure enough, the next run through was perfect.
Thanks, Fred, for being such an inspiration to me in ways you probably never knew.
Nick Anderson '09, Philadelphia, PA
What can I say that hasn’t already been so eloquently and profoundly said by my Lawrence chums and colleagues? Fred Sturm was a giant among men and among music educators... and a key component in “the Lawrence difference.” I rest assured, however, in the fact that he will live on in everyone he touched throughout his monumental career. Fred made several visits to Kimberly High School over the years to work his magic on my jazz band. Many years ago, as he was leaving the building to head back to Lawrence, one of my trombone players told me how he could tell I studied under him -- he said our rehearsal techniques and mannerisms were so similar. I couldn't have asked for a higher compliment from a student, and I probably haven't received one as meaningful since. You fought an amazingly good fight, my friend... one that someone of your caliber should never have to endure. But you did it with grace, humor, and optimism... the same way you did EVERTHING and the same way you treated EVERYONE. Your journey with us has ended, but I am confident that it continues for you in a place where it would always be spring.
Craig Gall '90, Appleton, WI
A friend, bandmate, and colleague of nearly 42 years. Truly the heart of jazz.
Larry Darling '76, Menasha, WI
Fred Sturm. I can't imagine words even close to adequate that describe how much of an influence he had on me, and everyone who was fortunate enough to meet him. Thank you, Fred, for teaching me about music, work ethic, respect, generosity, humility, teaching, and countless other things.
When talking with him about life and things a couple years ago, he said to me "I've learned over the years that the best way to battle tragedy is with some semblance of normalcy and routine." That philosophy might explain why after yet another round of chemotherapy, he would come into another LUJE rehearsal and kick everyone's butts.
The world is undoubtedly a better place because he was in it, and those of us who knew him are undoubtedly better people for knowing him. Thank you for everything, Fred. You are greatly missed.
Sumner Truax '11, Rochester, NY
When I decided to switch instruments my sophomore year from flute to bassoon, he told me he did the same (switched from trumpet to trombone) in college. People just don't "do" that. But when he said he did, I knew I could, too. It was great to reconnect with him at Eastman, played in as many of his studio orchestras as possible. He was ever so sweet to remind me of how great life is, with a wink and a smile.
Everyone of his students was touched deeply by his musical brilliance, passion, good humor and decency. Wishing I could just hang around those rounded back orange lounge chairs once more, talking smack while waiting for my old friends to walk over to Pat's Tap (or whatever it is now) for an Old Peculiar.
Since I can't transport to Appleton tonight, I'll pull open a New Glarus (I just came back from Milwaukee Irishfest), listen to Pat Methany's "First Circle" and hold my friends dear.
Silagh (Chiappetta) White '87, Bethlehem, PA
Superman. Amazing conductor. Brilliant composer. Fred was one of the most inspiring professors I had the honor of studying with at Lawrence. He taught me not to fear improvisation, to embrace my "weaknesses," and to always, always put my students' needs first.
Personal remembrances of working with Fred Sturm and Bobby McFerrin - two musical giants - and playing the Superman theme as Fred approached the podium for the LSO concert ... Amazing memories.
Lauren Thompson '13, Ypsilanti, MI
First jazz combo I joined was coached by Fred. We had to learn Mingus' Hora Decubitis by ear. We had to do it in the dark. He had me take a solo and with his big big smile he yelled at me the whole time to stop thinking. He changed me as an improviser, as a musician, and as a person at that moment. His talent and soul is perpetually unmatched.
Andre Juan '10, Brooklyn, NY
What a guy. So full of fire and positivity, an energy that shines through in his music and all those whose lives he touched. He found value in every interaction, every story, every person that crossed his path, and inspired others to do the same.
Alexis Mahler '14, Marquette, MI
Remembering when the LSO played the theme from Superman for his entrance at a concert. He wore the full outfit, of course.
Ruby Braillier '13, Ann Arbor, MI
I had the privilege of meeting Fred several years ago when he conducted Colorado All-State Jazz Band. He was a wonderful and kind mentor to my son who was fortunate to be in All-State that year, as well as to me as the parent of a prospective jazz performance major. Our family has held Fred in highest regard as a composer, arranger, conductor, mentor, and compassionate human being.
What a legacy Fred Sturm leaves, and how fortunate Lawrence has been to have had him there for so many years.
Barbara Weidlein, Boulder, CO
A couple of remembrances that are kind of personal…
Thank you for what you did in championing the Ray Wright event at Eastman in 2012. It seemed to me that when you initiated, everything fell into place. I am not sure how many know of your behind-the –scenes presence in the creation of that memorable weekend
And, a very thanks also for the invitation, in the early 80’s, to do a clinic at Lawrence. Little did I know it would be the only one of my life.
Just a couple of additions to the huge list of blessings you distributed to the world. I miss you, Fred.
Manny Mendelson, Skokie, IL
I worked with Fred to develop the con webpages. He was a warm-hearted person with a delightful sense of humor. He was kind and always cheerful. May his soul be rewarded for all the goodness in his heart. My prayers and thoughts are with you and family.
Tasneem Mirza '05, New York, NY
I never got to know Fred well because I wasn't a jazz student, but he is the type of person whose influence extends to beyond those who were close to him. He was truly a great presence in the conservatory and led by example for all of its students.
Madeline Herdeman '10, Houston, TX
Fred seriously enabled me as a composer in my early years, featuring an arrangement I did of 'Darn That Dream' in a LUJE concert in the big auditorium... And a great, relaxed band director who also demonstrated exactly how to rehearse an ensemble... And in those pre-PC days, Fred was non-plussed about having a beer or two with his students. I am so lucky to have been his student.
Kenton Muschenheim '91, Ahakista, Ireland
I knew Fred through Tritone Jazz Camp at Bjorklunden . I enjoyed his basic theory class. He made jazz easier to understand with his relaxed teaching style. Every session was a joy to attend. My condolences go out to his wonderful son, Ike, and to his entire family.
Gary Thompson, Indianapolis, IN
When I was at Lawrence, Fred was just a kid himself, hardly much older than the students he taught. Yet he was still larger than life. He introduced us to studio orchestra, allowing this clarinetist the opportunity to be part of the jazz culture for the first time in her life. He was also just an all around great guy.
Dona VanderSchaaf Wininsky '79, Milwaukee, WI
I was in that" first jazz ensemble for credit" when Fred was the student director.One of his first arrangements was "Watermelon Man" , which I'm sure he would chastise me for mentioning. I think we got credit the 2nd or 3rd tri-mester.Those first jazz concerts were real "happenings" on campus, as we rollicked our way thru "House in the Country" and "Caroline and Her Magic Cello Visit the World of Rock." Great times, and look what those humble beginnings gave birth to! He wrote a tune for my Barron HS Jazz Band, and spent a day clinicing the kids followed by a concert. We kept in touch over the years and through everything he kept that same "Fredness" we all knew.We had a habit of signing off our e-mails as an old Cubs player, so Glen Hobbie, write some great charts for the bands up there!
Norm Yamada '71, Barron, WI
Thank you, Professor Sturm. You were a kind soul. I will honour you spreading love through teaching and for teaching. May your family find peace through the faith you shared.
Pietro De Gregorio, Senigallia, Italy
I had a peripheral involvement with the LU jazz program, but that fleeting connection to Fred lives with me to this day, and floods back upon hearing of a truly truly great man’s passing. An Appleton kid, an Ike Spangenberg high school student of jazz, never an LU student, I somehow fell into playing bass (marginally) with the Lab Band for 2 years in 1981-1982. With inadequate reading chops and playing over my head, listening to Fred teach, inspire, and always demand the best of an ensemble during each rehearsal at the musty old Annex, was an absolute honor. He also generously brought me in as a backup for the infamous Foursight combo, playing everything from Proud Mary to Straight No Chaser at occasional country club gigs; that’s where I learned to read changes while laughing so hard I could not see. So I got a glimpse of that side, but also experienced his arrangements - including those written specifically and meticulously for graduating LU seniors - so lush as to transfix an entire audience. Thank you Fred, I’m blessed to have gotten to know you in even a very small way.
Steve Germiat, Seattle, WA
I could go on for pages about what Fred did with LUJE, for the Lawrence community, and all of the musicians he ever coached and played with. More than awards and concerts though, what stands out most is how he went about doing all of it. Present in every rehearsal was a kind of love, intensity, and creativity I have never seen in another human being. In addition to his music, Fred's legacy will be the belief that a bunch of college students can create something extraordinary together if only they put their minds wholeheartedly towards the task.
Jonathan Fagan '15, Boston, MA
As a percussion major, I first heard Fred on WLFM in 1977 spinning "Gate of Dreams” by the Claus Ogerman Orchestra. I met him shortly afterward at the Con and told him how much I loved the album. Ever humble, Fred was pleasantly surprised that I’d been listening. The Ogerman piece was a prelude to the LU Studio Orchestra which Fred started with LU Symphony conductor David Becker to expose student musicians to the real-world work of studio recording. As a Studio Orchestra member, I was thrilled to play with LUJE and Matrix; to talk individually with Fred’s colleagues from Matrix; record an album at Shadetree Studios in Lake Geneva; perform a concert and seminar with the late, great Bud Brisbois and composer Michael Gibbs; and to hear Fred play the euphonium solo on his piece, “Elysian Fields,” which still can bring tears to my eyes when I listen to it. Fred gave me the opportunity to play drums with the Jazz Vocal Ensemble, and exposed me to singer-arrangers like Bonnie Herman and Gene Puerling of Singers Unlimited. I am thankful for Fred’s generosity of knowledge, humor, and warmth of character — especially to someone who was not in LUJE or in his studio. When I met Suzie (a percussionist, no less!) I was amazed how two such wonderful people found each other. I recall fondly how happy they were when Suzie was pregnant with Ike. My prayers go out to Suzie, Ike, and Madeline as they grieve Fred’s death.
Bernie Asher '80, Minneapolis, MN
Fred was battling cancer the same time as my dad. While Fred was never officially my professor or conductor, he always took the time to invite me into his office or stop me in the hallway and ask how me and my family were doing. That still means so much to me. I got a very nice email from Fred a few months ago after I moved back to the area. I'm disappointed we never met up. Sending peace to your family.
Andrew LaCombe '12, De Pere, WI
Fred Sturm was one of the most powerful forces of positive energy that I've ever encountered. I am truly blessed to have had him for a friend. I will miss him - and his radiance - dearly. My heartfelt condolences to his family.
Bob Washut, Cedar Falls, IA
Fred and I worked together at WLFM. If I remember right, his was the first show devoted to jazz, and his knowledge of the music was incredible. I'm greatly saddened by his passing. He was a good friend and a great musician and I'll always remember him with fondness and joy.
Marte Brengle '72, Burbank, CA
Fred was generous enough to let some of his students use his office as a practice space... But not without threatening to "send you to the hoosegow if you happened upon my secret stash of thousand dollar bills!!"
At the 2013 spring LU Jazz Ensemble concert, the band was warming up on stage. The lights went down and Fred walked on to introduce the band. Before he could start speaking the audience erupted into applause, in honor of his work, his passion, and his character. This lasted for a handful of minutes before Fred was able to speak. I was in tears before we had played a single note of music.
The night before winter break began one fall Fred took Emily Karl '14 and I out for pizza and beer, down on College Ave... He told us countless stories, listened, laughed, and joked, creating one of the most memorable experiences in our time at Lawrence. He was so interested in learning about our lives, asking about our time at Lawrence, our families, our experiences in the jazz department and our future plans, we could barely squeeze in asking him a question! This evening was one example of the deep connections he made with all of his students; I will always be grateful for the time he gave to us.
Anna Buchholz '14, Alton, MN
"Frantic Fred," as I used to call him (in large part because the only thing I ever knew him to do frantically was to try to run the bases--he was no base-stealer)--"Frantic Fred" played a mean, slick first base. He had a really good glove, smooth hand-eye coordination--smooth and sensitive. Above all, he was a composer, a true scrivener, a writer--with high style when appropriate, and low when it was right--and not just in the codes and languages of musical scores, but in our mother tongue. His missives, even his memoranda, were delights to read and hear.
Fred will be sorely missed by so many. He was an outstanding teacher and human being. He stood out as one who reached down from the top, always trying to grow the world of music by opening the door to more music makers and music lovers. I remember him saying in a jazz history class that he felt the class was a success if each student went on to acquire one jazz recording.
I did not grow up with music education. Fred helped to open the door for me. Because of his class I not only bought a recording; I bought a trumpet. Then I found a jazz musician to teach me to play "How High the Moon."
I am doing my best to pass on the gift to my daughter, who enjoys singing and playing the piano and violin. Just today, she joined the school band.
I am deeply grateful to Fred for his dedication, his superb teaching, and his generosity in sharing his extraordinary gifts. My heart aches for his family.
Fred was a great musician with wonderful energy - and a real Cub fan... I'm remembering the day Fred and Bob Levy and I spent hours in my dining room going through boxes of Cubs baseball memorabilia. Fred was so excited to see and to touch, and to experience what was on the table before us. There were memories and little bits of all 3 of our younger lives passing from hand to hand there. You could see that in his eyes. He was like a kid in a candy shop.
Fred shared a story with me about when he and his brother visited Wrigley Field shortly after their father's death in 1995. Reading it always brings tears to my eyes. You can find it in the 2007 - volume 87 of Lawrence Today magazine, "Putting the Bat in Baton". Wrigley was hallowed ground to Fred. He felt that even more than I.
Our mutual love of baseball and music gave us a connection. Fred and I weren't close friends, but he always greeted me with that Fred smile and a big handshake or a pat on the back.
I last saw Fred a while back, at The Lawrence Chapel after a performance. The smile and handshake were there, as always, a fleeting moment. You just never know when a moment is gone...
Donald Elston, Appleton, WI
I had the pleasure of getting to know Fred well while working in the Admissions and Development offices for three years following graduation in 1971. Fred was a star musician who played with John Harmon, Larry Darling, and Jeff Pietrangelo in the fabulous jazz group called Matrix, which in my view is one of my most favorite groups ever. In fact, the highlights of my wedding day in June 1974 was having our entire wedding party move from the exception in Sage Hall to a bar out on Highway 41 where Matrix was performing. We closed the bar down listening to Fred and his pals. What a special guy!!!
Dave Mitchell '71, Portland, OR
Rest in peace friend. I will always remember your love of life, music and continued friendship. I have many memories from our college days and the Matrix days. May your family find peace and support through the love of all you have touched.
Dr. Marcy Mittelstadt '73, Corneilus, NC
I will always remember Fred as one of the most positive people I've ever been around. He always had that big smile for you and a fountain of infectious enthusiasm just kept sweeping over both him and you whenever you'd connect with him. A true visionary of a completely American musical form, he combined work and play in such a sense that after a while, you simply couldn't distinguish between the two. I'm glad and proud to have known him.
Mark Cebulski '73, Austin, TX
I just talked with Fred a few weeks ago and typical to Fred, had no idea things were that bad. I was in LUJE when Fred first came back to Lawrence and will never forget the special times that were shared by the whole group of musicians. Fred was one of a kind and I have huge pit in my stomach as I just heard of his passing. God bless Suzie and the kids. What an impact he had on my life!
David Bridenhagen '80, Green Bay, WI
Fred was a beloved classmate of everyone in the Conservatory. I think we were all a bit in awe of his musicianship and his many accomplishments. Fred was always kind to all of us and so much fun to be around. I was privileged to work with Fred in the Musical "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off". My heart goes out to his family and close friends. Your loss is immeasurable.
Linda Rosenbauer '73, Kiel, WI
Neither Dawn nor I knew Fred on a personal level, but we could never thank him enough for the role he played in our son Henry's life the last four years. From betting H he couldn't hit his high note in his first Kaleidoscope performance (and gladly paying off) to encouraging H to attend his own alma mater, North Texas, for grad school, Fred was a constant source of anecdotes, challenges, and encouragement to our son. We are saddened at his passing, but so glad of his presence in our, and Henry's, lives.
Bill & Dawn Gergen '79 & '83, Beaver Dam, WI
As an independent school music educator at The Prairie School in Racine, Wisconsin, I have always enjoyed introducing my students to charts that Fred wrote. His music spoke to us in special, special ways. Last June I decided to ask Fred to do a commission to celebrate Prairie's 50th year. In July we spoke at length about the project and how it might develop. Fred was his wonderful enthusiastic, vibrant, creative self. Just a few weeks later Fred emailed to tell me his health was failing dramatically and, regretfully, he would be unable to complete the project. But, what followed in the email left me speechless. He was in hospice at home but he proceeded to send me 5 other composer options with personal descriptions and complete contact information. I loved being in process with him; I was overwhelmed by the care that he took with my needs. That, I think, was very "Fred." In October my students will perform his "Horsepower," dedicating it to the very, very human man behind the music. Fred taught/reminds me the ways in which we can empower others through connection and pure presence. I'll never forget his compassion and his courage. Thank you, Fred. Arms round.
Pat Badger, Racine, WI
Fred's generosity and enthusiasm brought out the best in his students, myself included. That he continued to do so while fighting cancer made him all the more inspirational. I'll never forget Fred for what he taught me about music; but the most important lesson I learned from him was to never discount the power of passion, charisma, and fun.
Ryan Olsen '08, Ripon, WI
Just loved using Fred's jazz band arrangements with my high school jazz groups. Such an all around talented musician and teacher Fred was, in addition to being a wonderful human being.
- Brenda Winkler, Green Bay, WI
Fred was not only a fine performer, but was an academic in the best sense. In our rehearsals on the second floor of the old house known as the 'jazz annex', we learned not just how to play and arrange for big band, we learned about and played from the history of jazz. Fred was model for a university professor: have passion for what you do and high expectations while always having fun. He knew that most of us would not become professional musicians but that did not stop him from treating what we were doing with the utmost professionalism. And for all his accomplishments, I don't think he ever forgot a former student.
John Hellerman '86, Portland, OR