Music professor running 100 miles to raise scholarship money for French horn students

Music professor running 100 miles to raise scholarship money for French horn students

Photo and video by NELSON JONES

WINCHESTER, Va. – When you think about a college student earning a scholarship, maybe you think about a great athlete or an academic superstar. The man you are about to meet is raising scholarship money for something else. It is something he loves and he is putting in the work to prove it.

Joseph Lovinsky can’t afford to be out of breath. Playing French horn warms his heart. Long-distance running clears his head.

“I decided if I’m going to do a hundred miles, if I’m going to put myself through all that, I should do it for a cause, and of course, the first cause I thought of was my students,” he said.

Lovinsky is a music professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va. He knows that for his students, money is tight.

“I know they’re getting scholarship money that the school is able to give them, but they could use a little boost,” Lovinsky said.

And Lovinsky knows. His parents were Haitian immigrants. He was raised in a tough neighborhood in Miami. And as a kid, he told his teacher he wanted to play the trumpet.

“We went to the store to find out how much a trumpet costs and when we found out, my dad said, ‘Go play whatever he gives you for free,’” said Lovinsky.

His French horn earned him a scholarship to prestigious Julliard. He paid his living expenses working as a security guard, but it wasn’t enough.

“During those times, I had very short bouts with — it took me a long time to finally say this word — but homelessness,” he said. “I called it everything else. That’s what it was. I was sleeping in the park.”

After graduation, he auditioned and spent 20 years playing in the United States Army Band.

“I’ve literally performed thousands of funerals at Arlington National Cemetery,” Lovinsky said. “Some of those were the most meaningful performances I’ve ever done in my life. Playing in Carnegie Hall or anything like that couldn’t compare to playing for [and] seeing the families and reading the letters that they send back of thanks.”

Retired Master Sgt. Joseph Lovinsky has been teaching French horn at Shenandoah University for two years. These days, some know him as “100 Mile Joe.”

In March, he will run 100 miles in about 30 hours. The goal is to raise $5,000 in scholarship money. His only demand: it must go to a student who plays French horn.

It is all covered in snow right now, but Lovinsky will be doing a good bit of this run right here on the track at Shenandoah. He will also be taking a jaunt through downtown Winchester. They are hoping a lot of people in the community will come out to support him.

“It’s tough,” he laughed. “It’s as tough as I expected it to be. I’ve never trained this much before.”

He has already completed six ultramarathons. That is 50 miles. When it gets tough, thoughts of his students will push him forward.

“I think I’m as ready as I’ve ever been,” he said.

If you want to help Lovinsky raise scholarship money, go to

— By Beth Parker, Fox 5 DC