What’s with our name? The Fred R. Peters FREESAX Foundation for Music Education was named for Fred Peters, a longtime music educator in Orange County, California. To celebrate his love for music and his chosen career, his car sported the license plate “FREESAX,” which was a way of his highlighting his job as a freelance saxophone player. We chose our name to remember Fred and his contribution to local music, and to represent one of our most important programs, giving instruments free of charge to needy students (the way Fred did during his career). Music education, like math, science, physical education and language, should be available to all students, regardless of their economic status. FREESAX will work to enable students with a passion for music to study it by giving them instruments or monetary support.
Fred R. Peters was an Orange County music legend. He taught middle school math, science, and most importantly, music, for 45 years at a few different schools, but spent the bulk of his career at Fulton Middle School in Fountain Valley. He was a lifelong professional musician, having received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music from California State University Long Beach before choosing teaching as a day job. He played gigs regularly throughout his life, notably with Tracy Wells Big Swing Band as a saxophone and clarinet player. His favorite instrument was the baritone sax, which he treasured and appreciated for its difficulty, its sound, and, of course, its weight, but Fred played everything. He helped teach his three kids many instruments including piano, cello, drums, guitar, and violin, and students will attest to his ability to pick up an instrument he had little experience with and model the proper way to play, strum, blow, or pound out a tune. Fred was unquestionably in love with the art form known as jazz, and the sounds of local jazz station KLON 88.1 permeated his house, his garage, and his cars whenever he was present. Fred was honored with the Teacher of the Year award in 2007, capping off an amazing and inspiring career.
Fred started with 9 students in a single band with an uncooperative principal. In a few years, he had developed his program into one of the strongest and best-regarded music programs in California, and continued to manage the program to success until his retirement in 2008. Not only did Fred instill a passion for music and performance in students he taught, he personally helped support developing careers by donating his time, instruments from his personal collection, and money to his students who needed it. He had a tradition of giving out a scholarship to a student from his program each year to Arrowbear Music Camp, and the scholarship always came from “an anonymous donor.” Fred was humble and didn’t want credit for his considerable legacy. It is passion like this and commitment like Fred’s that our students need if we are going to preserve the valuable lessons and impact of music on their lives.
In mid-2010, Fred and his children discussed the idea of starting a music education foundation. The idea was to have a place for Fred to continue his work and legacy despite his retirement. Unfortunately, shortly after this discussion Fred’s lifetime illness, a rare immune condition which made it difficult for him to fight infection, worsened and his health deteriorated. Shortly after Fred’s death in October, 2010, his three kids decided to work on the Foundation for launch in 2011, as volunteers, to continue his work in his name and to have a way to connect with their dad. We received incredibly generous contributions from colleagues, friends, former students, and the general public, and were able to start off our charity with some truly meaningful donations.
We had hoped to be able to give out one scholarship in our first year, but thanks to our donors we did much more. Our initial round of scholarship awards went out in May and June, 2011, and we were able to give out an impressive $1,870 in awards to three amazing young students after only a few months of operation. Our donors deserve the thanks for this amazing effort, and for inspiring us to do more. In addition to our scholarships, we donated a baritone sax belonging to Fred R. Peters to a deserving individual, kicking off our instrument donation program with a bang. This brought our first-year donation total up to $3,870.00, a stunning success for our first 12 months of operation. To date, we have raised more than $10,000 in money and instruments towards this cause.
Our second year has already begun with a bang. Following a successful fundraising concert where we highlighted the musical talent of some of our friends and supporters, in addition to last year’s scholarship recipients, we increased our college scholarship awards by 20% and gave a cash donation to McAuliffe Middle School’s jazz band program. David Myer, a senior, and Patrick Olmos, a sophomore, were proud to accept the Freesax Foundation’s 2012 scholarship awards of $600 each. They bring an amazing passion for music and music education to their studies and the Foundation is thrilled to honor them with these awards. Readers can get details on all our scholarship recipients on our College Scholarship page.