Composer, baritone saxophonist, and activist Fred Ho ’79 will be honored by Harvard University as the fall 2009 recipient of the Harvard Arts Medal at a ceremony hosted by actor John Lithgow ’67 on Nov. 13, presented by the Office for the Arts at Harvard and the Board of Overseers of Harvard College. Ho will also participate in a tribute concert with the Harvard Jazz Bands on Nov. 14, featuring the world premiere of his “Take the Zen Train.” Both events are open to the public.
The Harvard Arts Medal honors a distinguished Harvard or Radcliffe graduate or faculty member who has achieved excellence in the arts and has made a contribution through the arts to education or the public good. Previous medal recipients include saxophonist and composer Joshua Redman ’91, composer John Adams ’69, M.A. ’72, playwright Christopher Durang ’71, poets John Ashbery ’49 and Maxine Kumin ’41, cellist Yo-Yo Ma ’76, film director Mira Nair ’79, conductor and founder of Les Arts Florissants William Christie ’66, stage director Peter Sellars ’80, composer John Harbison ’60, National Theatre of the Deaf founder David Hays ’52, author John Updike ’54, musicians Bonnie Raitt ’72 and Pete Seeger ’40, and actor Jack Lemmon ’47.
Ho is described as a one-of-a-kind revolutionary Chinese-American baritone saxophonist, composer, writer, producer, political activist, and leader of several music ensembles. For two decades, he has created a new American multicultural music embedded in African-American musical forms with the influences of Asia and the Pacific Rim. As Larry Birnbaum has written in Down Beat, “Fred Ho’s style is a genre unto itself, a pioneering fusion of free-jazz and traditional Chinese music that manages to combine truculence and delicacy with such natural ease that it sounds positively organic.”
As a musical leader, Ho has recorded more than 15 albums, founding the Afro Asian Music Ensemble in 1982 and Monkey Orchestra in 1990. He co-founded the Brooklyn Sax Quartet with David Bindmanin in 1997, and Caliente! Circle Around the Sun with poets Magdalena Gomez and Raul Salinas.
Ho has published several books including his newest, “Wicked Theory, Naked Practice,” a groundbreaking collection of his writings, speeches, and interviews from the past 30 years. Ho has been the subject of several scholarly works, and his other distinctions include a 1996 American Book Award and becoming the youngest person to receive the Duke Ellington Distinguished Artist Lifetime Achievement Award. He currently resides in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The schedule of events honoring Fred Ho, with ticketing and venue information, is available here.