Mailroom's Fred Howard Marches to Beat of a Different Drum: His Own
Most of Haverford knows Fred Howard as a valued member of the mail room teamâ€”but away from campus, he follows a different beat.
A drummer since age five, Howard plays percussion as part of a duo called time2flyinc, writing and producing original music with partner Aaron Owens. He also writes for Manifest Media, a music publishing company with libraries of tracks that have been licensed by a variety of television shows.
As a toddler, Howard was given his first drum set by his father, an Air Force musician.“I liked rhythm,” he says.“I always had a lot of energy I needed to release, and I liked working with my hands.” At age six, he became the youngest member of the Lower Merion-based drill team.
Later, he joined the Haverford High jazz band after a teacher recognized his natural talents, and under his mentorship, Howard learned to read drum music. In 1982, four years before he came to Haverford, he purchased his first drum machine, and unearthed a new realm of musical possibilities:“I could create my own rhythm, adding music on top of it, using a keyboard and a four-track recorder.”
Howard had known Aaron Owens since the latter was bornâ€”their mothers are old friendsâ€”and in 2005 the two formed time2flyinc after getting together to“test their musical chemistry” with a few jam sessions. Explaining the inspiration for the name, Howard says,“To succeed in the music industry, you need to have a passion for itâ€”and for me, it's therapeutic. We both decided the time to do something with our music was now, while the opportunities present themselves.” It was, indeed, time to fly.
The instrumental tunes that Howard and Owens create are kaleidoscopic fusions of genres: jazz, rock, folk, hip-hop, rhythm & blues. Howard counts jazz among his biggest influences; his parents were huge fans, and he inherited their collection of 380 jazz records from the 1950s. He also grew up listening to hip hop, and played rock music with friends as a teenager.
Howard's goal, when crafting a song, is to envelop his listeners in the melody and draw them into a continuing story.“It's like a movie,” he says.“As it builds, you get more into it. I want to keep people involved in what's coming next.”
Time2flyinc falls under the umbrella of the music library and publishing company Manifest Media, of which Howard's friend Mark Guglielmo '92 is founder and currently CEO. Guglielmo was an amateur rapper when he first came to Haverford, and Howard encouraged him in his music:“He related to me as a musician, and welcomed me into hip-hop culture.” The two would have listening sessions in Howard's van and offer each other valuable feedback before heading to the studio to collaborate on a track.
After graduating, Guglielmo (aka Vesuvio) became a producer for major and independent record labels, collaborating and performing with the likes of Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, and Cut Chemist, before expanding into the licensing industry. He returned to Haverford for a visit in 2004 and offered Howard the opportunity to license his music to Guglielmo, so it could be used on such television shows as MTV's“The Real World” and“Exposed.” When one of Howard's tracks was used on a 2006 episode of“Real World/Road Rulesâ€”The Duel,” Guglielmo personally called to congratulate him. Currently, Howard is in the studio working on new tracks for Manifest Media, while Guglielmo continues to license his existing tracks to new shows, including recently completed deals with MTV's“Making the Band,”“The Hills,”“The Real World,”“Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and“Life of Ryan.”
“He's a passionate character,” says Guglielmo of his friend.“Throughout the 20 years I've known him, he has sustained a love and joy for making music that is truly rare, and that's at the root of his creative expression. He's a rare soulâ€”kind, honest, a lot of integrity. You can't say a bad thing about him.”
Howard's main musical focus is on time2flyinc, which he describes as“more a production entity than a band”; the duo rarely performs live, except at places like Brandywine Assisted Living, where Howard moonlights as a nurse's aide. Howard also works with Spirit, a friend's gospel group, and serves as a studio drummer for Hendell Parker, a New York-based jazz musician.
Like his father before him, Howard is training the next generation of family musicians. His 17-year-old son Jordan (aka J-how) writes music and lyrics for his own rap songs, and his four-year-old son Kyle is already following in his dad's drumming footsteps (see the video at www.myspace.com/howardowensurbanjazzproject).“I'm giving him guidance and pointers,” says a proud Howard, who recalls drumming on his wife Kimberly's stomach when she was pregnant with Kyle.“He watches me a lot for his cues.”