Nine Posts by Robert Freemen
Introductory Note to Nine Posts (2019-21) by Robert Freeman
I should confess that my first interaction with Robert Freeman was when he offered me a job at Eastman, which I declined in favor of UCLA (was it the weather?), where I taught very happily for 45 years. Yet unlike many similar interactions, Bob and I immediately recognized in the other a passionate commitment to innovative, culturally-sensitive, technologically progressive teaching (it didn’t hurt that we were both pianists). Hence over the years we remained in frequent contact, and whenever schedules permitted (as with a program I did with the Cleveland Quartet) we got together to brainstorm about what was working (and what wasn’t!). I came within a hair’s breadth of accepting an offer from the University of Texas at Austin, while Bob come equally close to becoming Dean of the College of Fine Arts at UCLA.
Bob’s leading of Eastman to become one of this country’s premier music institutions (and Jamal Rossi’s equally visionary leadership since) needs no comment here. Upon his retirement from the University of Texas in 2015, Bob’s first phone call was to ask me what was the most innovative music teaching project of which I was aware. As fate would have it, my collaborator Peter Bogdanoff and I were in the formative stages of an all-digital interactive music program we called Music in the Air (which students quickly dubbed MITA) aimed at both music educators, students, and self-learners. I sent Bob a link to our prototype, and within a few hours he called me back excitedly to say that this was exactly what he had been looking for. At this juncture in his long life, Bob was particularly interested in issues of attention—this in a country where, as one of Bob’s blogs points out, 17% of the population is said to have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). He saw MITA as an ideal vehicle for inviting attention around works of music that would benefit all phases of cognitive development.
For the more than seven years that Bob served as our Senior Educational Liaison, all of us on the MITA team benefitted from Bob’s expansive ideas and his infectious means of communicating them. While we were protective of his time (he was working on several books simultaneously), we asked him in 2019 if he would be willing to contribute a modest blog on our website (getmita.com) where he could capture in writing some of the many discussions we held with him. While he had explored some of them in his foundational The Crisis of Classical Music in America (2014), he still had plenty to say. Thus it was that Bob began to deliver periodically his ideas about a specific topic of broad interest. He did so in his characteristically generous yet direct language that drew on experiences going back to his Eastman-graduate parents. Over these last several months, as Bob realized he would not be leaving the hospital alive, he and I spoke most every day (while a steady stream of family and lifelong friends made the pilgrimage to visit Bob in Austin). A wish he articulated on multiple calls was that his blogs might also find some place in an Eastman publication. We were, of course, eager to refer Bob’s wish to Dean Rossi, who immediately suggested that they be added to the web page that Eastman had generously created for Bob in 2015. His learning of Dean Rossi’s suggestion gave Bob considerable comfort in his final weeks.
Robert Winter, Distinguished Professor of Music Emeritus, UCLA
Lead author, Music in the Air
Signed copies of Robert Freeman’s recent book The Crisis of Classical Music in America are available for purchase in the Eastman School of Music bookstore.Amazon E-book