For Nancy Fox-Hoover, a gifted local vocal artist, fame was never a motivator.
During her first musical production in college, she stood behind a curtain, hidden from the audience, to sing for the lead actor, a 12-year-old boy whose voice had unexpectedly deepened.
“I’ve never done anything that has made me famous or rich,” she told The Press of Atlantic City in 1993. “But I’ve always kept singing, and that’s what I am — a singer.”
Now, the South Jersey music community is mourning Fox-Hoover, 77, an Ocean City music teacher who led hundreds of choral productions across the region. She died last Thursday of cancer.
Born in Pittsburgh, Fox graduated from Cranberry High School in Emlenton, Pennsylvania, before studying opera at West Virginia University in 1960, said her husband, Duke Spitzer.
Fox-Hoover learned to read music before entering grade school. As a child, her mother, a pianist, and father, an accountant and violinist, took Fox-Hoover to church and instructed her to follow the notes in the hymnal, according to a previous Press profile of the performer.
“She grew up singing in that church ... and went on to have a great legacy,” Spitzer said.
In college, Fox-Hoover truly stepped into the singing world.
She often stood in for singers who became ill before a show, Spitzer said. Seeing her talents, the school’s musical director convinced Fox-Hoover to switch her major from psychology to music.
After graduating, Fox-Hoover studied at the Mozarteum Academy of Music Opera School in Salzburg, Austria, Wolfgang Mozart’s hometown. She then went on to receive her master’s degree in music from the University of Michigan.
“She had an exquisite voice. ... It was like liquid gold,” said Stockton University Vocal/Choral Program Coordinator Beverly Vaughn, who began collaborating with Fox-Hoover in the 1980s for school productions.
Fox-Hoover settled in Ocean City around 1967, Spitzer said. She had vacationed there as a kid.
Almost immediately, Fox-Hoover began soloing with the Ocean City Pops Orchestra, said William Scheible, former orchestra director. For 31 years, Fox was also the soprano soloist at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Ocean City.
“She was just such a vibrant entertainer and singer and able to do so many genres,” Scheible said.
She sang in and directed countless productions across South Jersey and the U.S. while working toward her doctorate at the Juilliard School of Music. In 1972, she opened a studio on Bay Avenue in Ocean City and taught classical music to generations of students for more than 40 years.
One of her greatest abilities, Spitzer said, was giving young children the confidence to perform.
Fox-Hoover started the Youth Opera of South Jersey and started Operafest International, a nonprofit traveling opera company. In the past seven years, Fox started an exchange program to bring children to Germany to perform operas.
“She started a lot of kids on their careers in voice and music,” said Spitzer, also one of Fox-Hoover’s students before the two married in 1993. “When someone was in front of her, she was able to tune into them and find their talents.”
Fox-Hoover is survived by Spitzer, son Daniel Hoover, stepchildren Erin, Sarah, Tom and Samantha McNamee, brother George Fox, sister Marilyn Rutherford and sister-in-law Sally Fox.
Memorials may be given to the Fox Vocal Arts Studio at 1336 Bay Ave., Ocean City, 08226 to establish a scholarship for voice students. Services will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, 501 E. Eighth St. in Ocean City.