In Memoriam: Adon Foster

Adon Foster
Adon Foster (1919-2014)

2014 has been a difficult year for the Miami Department of Music, with the passing of Sandy Seefeld and Liz Lane, two beloved emerita faculty members.  Now we have lost the distinguished violinist Adon Foster, who taught in the Department of Music for more than thirty years.  Adon passed away on October 18, 2014, just a few weeks shy of his ninety-fifth birthday.  He is survived by his wife Kay and daughters Debbie and Vicki.

During his time at Miami Adon performed in the renowned Oxford String Quartet and did stints as concertmaster of both the Dayton Philharmonic and the Richmond Symphony.  For a while he even conducted the Miami University Symphony Orchestra.  Many of his students remain active members of the profession.

Adon landed at Normany on D-Day with the Army Medical Corps.  While in the army he met and married Audrey Hands, the mother of his children; Audrey passed away in 1981.  After the war Adon finished up the Eastman School of Music, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in violin.

I write about Adon not only to honor his memory but also because we can learn some things from him.  He was devoted to his family, to his colleagues, and to his students.  That other vital thread that ran throughout his life was music.

Adon was born just one year after the death of Claude Debussy and one year before the birth of Charlie Parker.  When Adon was four years old George Gershwin cooked up something called Rhapsody in Blue and played it in New York with Paul Whiteman's band.

When Adon was born, Ravel's Bolero and Chaplin's The Gold Rush hadn’t been created yet and were, in fact, years away.

Adon witnessed the whole panoply of music and art in the twentieth century, and he was in the thick of it on multiple fronts: as a concertmaster, as a quartet player, as a teacher and mentor. Try to imagine playing Appalachian Spring when the piece was new, so new that no one in the orchestra had played it before.  That's the kind of experience Adon had throughout his career.

Think of the countless times he tuned up an orchestra, all the stages on which he performed chamber music, the thousands of lessons he taught in his studio.  Think of all the repertoire that passed before his eyes and under his fingers.

During the past few years I’ve seen Adon and Kay regularly at Music Department concerts, and we had some lovely conversations about our discipline.  Last year Adon donated a fine viola and bow to the Music Department for use by music students.  Adon said that he had to give up playing the viola because he could no longer make the stretches with his left hand.  He would stick with the violin instead.  He was ninety-three at the time.

Adon Foster indeed lived the musical life.  Buona notte, maestro.

Bruce Murray
Professor and Chair