By any measure, Jon Box was an exceptional human being. To his friends and colleagues, he was rich in spirit and famous for his extraordinary acts of kindness that touched and inspired many—and particularly so those in Toronto where he lived and worked. His obituary states that he died Friday at age 45 after an heroic and courageous battle with mental illness.
Born Jonathan Michael James, Box graduated from Western U in 1995 with a B. Sc. in Microbiology and Immunity, Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. He worked for a short time at Music World and HMV in Toronto, joining Universal Music as a sales rep in 1996, according to his LinkedIn page. Over the next 23 years and nine months he worked his way up to become VP, Label Partnerships and Business Development, in December 2012.
Admired and respected inside Universal, his engaging and enthusiastic drive to do good led him to sit on various music industry boards, and a particular favourite was as organizer of the music industry’s annual Blue Jay’s game fundraiser for Unison and MusiCounts.
He has also volunteered with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and was a board member of Toronto Music City, helping to find affordable housing for the Toronto music community. His most recent philanthropic initiatives include raising money and awareness for the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research – Sunnybrook Foundation
He is survived by Heather Wright, his wife of 21 years, and daughters’ Amélie and Tallulah. A GoFundMe campaign, set up for the daughters’ post-secondary education, has raised over $76,000 from 347 donors so far.
Funeral arrangements have been made through M.Box & Son Funeral Home, established by Jonathan’s great grandfather Marshall in 1920, and carried on by grandfather Laurence, and Jonathan’s own father Charles Box.
A casual attire time of visiting and memories will take place at Mount Pleasant Funeral Centre, 375 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Toronto, on Friday, September 27, 2019 from 3pm-7pm followed by a visitation at M.Box & Son Funeral Home, 183 Broad Street in Parkhill on Sunday, September 29, 2019 from 3pm-7pm.
What follows are expressions of fondness and sadness from friends and colleagues sent to FYI in the past 48 hours.
Remembering Jon Box
Our Universal Music Canada family is devastated over the loss of our dear friend and colleague Jon Box.
A long-time employee of UMC and a valuable member of our Leadership Team, Jon began his career 23 years ago as the Southwestern Ontario Representative and eventually became Vice President of Label Partnerships. During his tenure, he held various positions including Account Executive, Sales Manager & Director of Business Development. He also volunteered at the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) and was a board member of the Toronto Music City initiative.
Jon brought so much of himself to work and championed many projects and events that will remain core components of our culture. He was passionate and dedicated to helping others through various philanthropic initiatives, mentoring opportunities and corporate events – and he always made sure everyone was having a good time. Today, many of us are gathering as a team to be a part of the 2019 Music Industry Baseball Tournament co-founded by Jon. As the team G.M., he played all the positions, cheered us on, was our champion and always made sure there was cold beer after practice.
A pillar of the Canadian music scene, Jon was fiercely passionate about emerging indie artists, and he always fought for the underdog to get another listen. He established the annual Rooftop Riot seven years ago in support of our independent label partners and it quickly became the most coveted party invite in town, the “unofficial” kick-off to NXNE. Jon loved the indie underground scene and enjoyed checking out unknown bands in dive bars and attending SXSW each year with the specific intent to discover new artists.
Together we grieve with all those that knew and loved Jon. To his wife Heather and his two daughters Amélie and Tallulah, you will always be a part of the UMC family, and we offer our deepest condolences.
We all miss you, Jon. You will forever be in our hearts and always remembered with immense adoration.
Your UMC family
Jeffrey Remedios, president of Universal Music Canada
This is difficult to write for I am as in shock as the rest of us.
Like all who crossed his path, I am going to miss Jon terribly.
He was an invaluable leader at our company. There is work done for work’s sake... and then there is vocation. Jon’s career was a calling. He loved the music business, and the music business loved him. His passion for artists and music was infectious. He was a believer... and made you a believer too.
He’s also one of the brightest people I’ve ever met... yet never made you feel less than.
He was always looking out for others. Always taking care of others. Always making sure YOU were ok.
He was at the core of our culture. He lightened the workload of his colleagues and the mood of any room he walked into.
To Heather, Amelie, Tallulah and all of Jon’s family, I offer my deepest condolences. I cannot articulate how profoundly he will be missed.
Randy Lennox, president of Bell Media and former president of Universal Music for 14 years:
Jon Box loved people - and people adored Jon.
He was as loyal as they came; continuously selfless, and always having a kind word to say. In the almost 25 years that I knew Jon, he never had a harsh word to say about anyone.
He was passionate and kind and always cared about how everyone else was doing. And Jon was a leading example of life balance by always putting Heather and their two kids Amelie and Tallulah first. They were the true joys of his life.
Jon was a music lover. A true music historian. He knew something about every artist, every song; especially from the independent labels and artists that he tirelessly loved and championed. Nobody cared more for artists and their rights than Jon Box.
When people move on from this world, we always say that they will be missed.
In Jon’s case, we will miss his incredible generosity and thoughtful soul. And We will all do our best to try and understand how this wonderful human being could be in so much pain.
Jon, we wish you peace where you are today. Your authenticity and infectious energy will never be far from our hearts and minds.
We Love you, Jon.
Iain Taylor, president of Cadence Music
It was my honour to be Jon’s boss in the early stages of his career at MCA/Universal. He was a natural from the start and so fucking good at his job! His passion for music ran way deep. Musicians connected with him on a level that was rare to see.
His nickname, Sweet Jonny Box, was a definition of both his demeanour and purpose. He was loved by so many, which makes his passing so hard to accept.
The industry has lost another one of the greats. Godspeed my friend.
Kieran Roy, president of Arts & Crafts (as posted on Facebook)
I got into the music business almost twenty years ago. Besides my immediate BMG colleagues, the first person I met in the industry was Jon Box. We were both sales reps calling on Sunrise Records. Our weekly meetings were back to back and we quickly developed a collegial friendship. We bonded over our “519” heritage and some common musical tastes. Jon was my “trader” at Universal, which is to say, we used to swap CDs from our respective catalogues. More than any album, it was a reissue of Los Lobos’ 1977 debut Del Este de Los Angeles that Jon recommended that caught my ear. To this day, when I play that album, I think of Jon.
Jon later joined BMG, albeit briefly, but it was a few years later that I truly came to appreciate him as a friend and as a colleague more greatly.
Jon was always a champion and supporter of Arts & Crafts. Whether it was at home or abroad, he fought for our artists and our company like nobody else. Several of our artists had the opportunity to showcase at Universal events because of Jon’s support.
We were colleagues, neighbours, and most importantly, friends.
We shared a mutual passion for not only for music, but for cooking. Jon taught me his Baja fish taco recipe and was thoughtful enough to bring me dried chilies and tequila from his annual trips to Mexico.
We shared a love of baseball and Jon fulfilled a childhood dream of mine when he introduced me to Kelly Gruber. The twelve-year-old inside me was elated. Jon was instrumental in the organization of the now annual industry softball tournament.
I’ve had the honour of getting to know Jon’s wife, Heather and their children. I can’t pretend to imagine their loss, but I can offer my support. My heart goes out to his family.
Tonight I listened to some of the music I know Jon loved. It was the most fitting tribute I could think of.
I will miss Jon’s positivity, passion, and friendship dearly.
Shauna de Cartier, president of Six Shooter Records
Jon was one of a kind. So charismatic and supportive and passionate and generous and thoughtful. He was a champion of Six Shooter and of me personally. Jon and I became friends when he wooed Six Shooter to move to Universal for distribution. He made me feel that what we were doing at Six Shooter was important. We mattered to him. And he freely offered up any expertise, insight, connections, anything he could do to contribute to our success. He helped me out in countless ways...like when he set up a meeting in LA with John Silva, so I could try to lure Beck to Interstellar Rodeo, or when he hand-delivered a pair of Six Shooter socks to Courtney Barnett in Chicago, for the same purpose.
We saw a lot of bands together…some of my favourite concerts I saw with Jon were the Alabama Shakes/July Talk show at the ACC, and the Black Joe Lewis show at SXSW. He also took me to a weird castle in Austin, complete with a moat, where — no word of a lie — there lived a vulture.
Walking down Queen St. East the other day, I remembered all the places we met in Leslieville for big laughs, where we would talk about all the things we wanted to do, like maybe start a music festival in Mexico. He knew the perfect spot. I wanted to call it Interstellar Mexico. I think Jon loved Mexico as much as he loved music.
Helen Britton, president of Six Shooter Management
Jon was always so kind and attentive to Six Shooter Records, even before we began our relationship with Universal. He always remembered everyone’s name and made a point to connect with each of us at events. I will never forget when Jon brought his family to our festival, Interstellar Rodeo, in Winnipeg in 2017.
It was so meaningful to us that he supported our venture, and he offered kind words and support all weekend as we worked tirelessly, slipping personal thank you cards to each of us under our hotel doors before they left town. That is who Jon was. He noticed, and he made sure people were cared for and felt important.
Luke Doucet & Melissa McClelland, Whitehorse
When we released The Northern South, Vol 1, John sent us a gift pack of Delta Blues records with Fred McDowell, RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and others. It was a very thoughtful gesture, and the next time we saw each other, he spoke at great length about his passion and knowledge of these artists. He was so sincerely inspired by the music and the relationships we create with it. It was a touching and deeply considerate exchange.
“Parkside” Mike Renaud, management consultant, Slaight Music
I hear you are looking for stories or memories of Jon. I can’t tell you all the ways in which Jon impacted my life, my label and our artists, but I wanted to share one story that sort of sums up the essence of Jon as I knew him.
As we were setting up The Dirty Nil's Master Volume cycle, Jon called me up and said HE needed us to shoot with the legendary UK photographer Steve Gullick in London. Steve’s career was extensive, but it was his connection to Nirvana that had Jon’s attention. Jon had befriended Steve over a possible trip to Canada for the launch of the Nirvana documentary, and when that didn’t work out, he just simply stayed in touch with him as Jon did.
Well, Jon had it in his head that Kurt’s guy had to shoot us and so he went to work. Jon negotiated the reduced fee of 666 English Pounds for us to spend the day with him. Now we had already gone deep in photos so our budgets were limited and so Jon just paid the bill. To him, it was worth getting us the experience of working with Steve. The day of the shoot, I sent him a few shots and thanked him profusely. He sent a text back with a photo of him with Dave Grohl that simply said, “great day on this continent too". Juan Caja El Segundo: Legend
Angela De Medeiros, UMC Manager, Label Partnerships
Just wanted to say that Jon Box was the best boss I ever had.
Jo Faloona, former UMC director of marketing now at Bruce Allen Talent
I met Jon during my time at Universal. I didn't work there for a long time, but I didn't need a long time to appreciate the effect of Jon Box. He was passionate about his work, kind in his demeanour, and never short of a little sarcasm and humour. Exactly the kind of person I love to work with. RIP Jon
Wesley Hayden, former Sr. VP, Sales, UMC
Jon was first and foremost a loving and devoted father and husband. A music lover. He was one of the most important young music executives in this business today. Again, a music lover. This should have never happened. Something needs to change. Mental health is not an anomaly; it is the number one killer in the world. We don’t want his death to be in vain. Reach out and help everyone you can.
“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” J. M. Barrie