Robert Freeman


Collection of Messages and Tributes from Friends and Family

From: John Covach’s review of Freeman’s very well reviewed book “Crisis of Classical Music in America”, published in volume 21, Number 2, June 2015 of the Journal of the Society for Music Theory.

“Robert Freeman is probably best known among post-secondary music faculty as the former director of the Eastman School of Music; he came to Rochester from a musicology post at MIT in 1972, served for more than two decades at  Eastman, and left in 1996 to take up positions as president at the New England Conservatory and then later as dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.  While Freeman had very little administrative experience when he began the top job at Eastman, he soon became a leading figure in collegiate music administration, in part because of his vision and innovation as director, and in part owing to the prestige and standing of the school he led. Indeed, many today would consider Freeman to be among the country’s most authoritative and experienced senior figures in performing-arts leadership – the dean of music school deans.”

From: “Inner Poems”, published by David Burge in 2010.

Administrative twist shared but with few: to
Concentrate both here and elsewhere, each
Completely clear, the two remembered equal, 
Nor would one dispense the other. (‘Tis a
Matter of faint worth, you say? Then you have
Not been Dean or Chairman yet. Ah, no.!)

Alone projecting plans curricular that
Might now modernize the way in which a
Faculty could carry music into
Modern days (as has been done in physics,
Anthropology or math and even 
Social Science) if said faculty had
Not already turned themselves the other
Way in firm denial, stay!

He looks away and wonders
Where to next give forth his
Always cogent thoughts,
Too often spoken but unheard.
Nor shall he once beguile
But ever more the smile
Suggests another trial,
To show the world what might just be worthwhile.


I am very sorry I will not be able to attend the ceremonies celebrating your legacy at Eastman. Those were great days for the school. You and Jon fostered an atmosphere of cooperation and respect among the various disciplines within the school and encouraged all areas to flourish. I enjoyed working with you both and with my colleagues to reshape the Theory Department during those years.

David Beach

Bob Freeman hired me for the best job I ever had, and I am forever grateful to him for that. He values both scholarship and performance, demonstrated them in his own career, and, most importantly, as Director of the Eastman School of Music, never lost sight of the fact that a comprehensive music school must honor them both. I am delighted to be able to participate in the celebration of his legacy at Eastman.

Kerala J. Snyder
Professor Emerita of Musicology;
Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester
Rochester, NY

Dear Bob,

While I regret being unable to join with your host of admirers on April 7, I do join with them in thanking you for the many years of dedicated service to ESM and the UofR. Eastman today is reaping the rewards of your dynamic leadership. It was my good fortune to have been associated with you for many of those years, both as a Trustee and as a member of the ESM Visiting Committee. If you are still doing Queechee in the summer, I hope we can arrange time together—a private celebration without the music!

With my warmest regards,
Ed Colodny

Dear Bob,

Congratulations on this well-deserved celebration of your creative and dedicated service to Eastman School, The University, and our community. Your vision shaped Eastman School in the past and will help guide it in the future. I have always been grateful for the opportunity to have served on Eastman’s administrative staff; and to have worked with the school’s outstanding faculty and highly motivated students. The ten years I spent at Eastman were a wonderful conclusion to my forty two years as a teacher and school administrator. Please accept my best wishes on this occasion. I wish I could have been here to personally applaud your contributions.

My best regards,
David B. Robinson


I’m sorry that I won’t be able to congratulate you in person during your return to Eastman. I would have liked to sit down with you once again over “abalone” as we did in that railway car restaurant in Los Angeles some thirty years ago. At that time the College Music Department was something I had only begun to imagine, and I like to think you’d be pleased how it’s turned out. Reading your recent book, I note that the distance between our views on the education of musicians and audiences has dwindled. May your day be joyous and triumphal!

All best,
Kim H. Kowalke


Heartiest congratulations on this most well-deserved honor. Barbara and I only wish we could be there to celebrate the occasion with you and Carol and your many friends and admirers.

Warmest regards,
Bryce Jordan President Emeritus, Penn State University 


Your management style, leadership and professionalism was an inspiration to me while a student at ESM and into the future of my own career. Thank you for setting such a fine example. This is a well deserved tribute!

Deborah Borra, ESM ’77 

Dear Bob,

Charlie and I count our years at the Eastman School of Music as some of the happiest days of our lives together. It is actually because of you that we are together. Your crazy foresight or risk-taking, in hiring the two of us to design our own idea of the perfect trumpet studio at the Eastman School, led to an astonishingly prolific time for us and our students. The Butler-Geyer trumpet team owes you everything. Because of your belief in us, we believed we could create a model for young trumpet players to discover their own magic and spread that everywhere they went. Our ESM trumpet students are everywhere, including 3 in the Chicago Symphony, principals in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, the entire section of the Rochester Philharmonic, and in orchestras like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, San Francisco and so many more. Many colleges and universities have trumpet faculty that were part of our ESM studio. None of this would have happened but for you. Charlie and I also did not realize how unique you were as Director of the Eastman School. We assumed all schools had leaders as visionary and encouraging as you, which as we have discovered, is not true. The way you and Jon ran the school seemed perfectly logical to us. The administration, the faculty and most of all the students, were part of one unified mission. At Eastman the students always came first. We still miss the Christmas sing in the main hallway. You and Carol are beloved by so many, and your legacy will be remembered forever. We love you Bob!

Barbara Butler and Charlie Geyer
Professors of Trumpet Rice University 2013 to present
Professors of Trumpet Northwestern University 1998-2013
Professors of Trumpet Eastman School of Music 1980-1998 

Dear Bob,

I waited for well over a week to write you and put together the flood of memories that Betty and I have during your long and rewarding tenure at Eastman, but cannot do justice to the floodgate of emotions that open.  I wish you many more occasions like this to come and hope we will fervently remain in touch.  Besides, I haven’t been to Texas yet! 🙂

Congratulations on this well deserved honor. 

My very best regards,
Sydney Hodkinson

What a blessing for me that a large portion of my thirty-two years as an artist-faculty professor in voice (1971-2003) were served under the inspired leadership of Bob Freeman! Memories abound from brainstorming lunches that resulted in fresh initiatives such as the Eastman Rochester concert series in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center that Jan DeGaetani, Robert Spillman and I launched together in the late seventies and was followed by Spillman and me for a solo concert in 1980. Other distinguished Eastman artists continued the series, providing a vivid presence for our school in the New York City musical life. During the eighties, Bob was enthusiastic in support of a proposal I delivered from educator-friends in California to collaborate for a summer camp program of vocal and instrumental studies with Music Monterey and the Robert Louis Stevenson School in Pebble Beach that we dubbed “Eastman West”. It was well-attended and very well-received, as another branding imprint of the Eastman School’s growing national outreach. Another personal highlight for me came in the fall semester of 1991, while I was directing the Eastman Chorale, when Bob invited me to present the chorale in the main hall to sing portions of the Rachmaninoff “Vespers” that we had featured in the chorale’s autumn concert earlier. Finally, a pleasant memory of singing German lieder with Bob at the piano rounds out the sense of broad range of personal involvement that characterize Bob’s total dedication to music in all of its manifestations.

With warm congratulations and gratitude,
Tom Paul 

Congratulations to Bob Freeman on the recognition of his long and devoted service to the Eastman School of Music, a period that spanned from my years as a graduate student in musicology through most of my nine-year-long stint as a visiting professor for summer sessions at Eastman. I am pleased to learn that ESM is honoring him in this fashion and wish him all good things.

David B. Levy (BM, MA, PhD, ’80)
Professor of Music and Associate Dean of the College
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, NC 

Dear Bob,

Jim and I send our best wishes to you on the occasion of your upcoming honors from Eastman. I still recall with great nostalgia being part of the visiting group who celebrated Eastman in Heidelberg during one of those many summers that provided a terrific European experience for students.

Josie (and Jim) Bennington

Dear Dr. Freeman,

Congratulations on your well deserved honor and thank you again for all the encouragement you gave me during the years of the Eastman alumni concerts.

H.E. “Kit” Crissey, Jr., ’66

Dear Bob,

Congratulations on this well-deserved honor. You were so good to me when I was at Eastman with the faculty appointment in harpsichord while I was studying organ, and then the excellent advice when I was trying to decide to stay there after graduation or come to North Texas. You said go and you were so right. I’ve had a wonderful career here and myriad opportunities that would never have happened there. I am so grateful to you for sending me on. Thank you!

With my best regards,
Lenora McCroskey, DMA ’82
Professor Emeritus of Music
University of North Texas

Dear Bob,

The long overdue recognition for you this week at Eastman brings joy to many others including myself. What you accomplished as Head of the School has and will benefit for many years the University of Rochester, the City of Rochester, and perhaps most importantly the entire field of Music Education in America. In almost fifty years of teaching at America’s best conservatories, I have known no one more creative, more in touch with ideas for the future, or more objective and fair in dealing with faculty personalities. It was a remarkable experience and a profound honor to work for and with you for almost two decades. I wanted so much to be in Rochester with you but dress rehearsals of “Magic Flute” prevent me from leaving Bloomington. Please know that I, Arlene, and Daniel are thinking of you, and we all send love to you and Carol as well as the heartiest of congratulations.

David Effron

Dear Bob,

Your day has finally arrived. My only regret is that I cannot be among the audience in celebration of your many years and contributions at ESM. Please know working with you was the highlight of my career, even after having worked for Lou Lasagna. I celebrate music daily with what I learned working in your office and one of my fondest memories is when you actually spelled out “Beatle” while dictating but never Tchaikovsky or Shostakovich. It was a pleasure and honor to work so hard for you in your efforts to build audiences, present and future, and advance the proud tradition of Eastman. Betsy and I (two cottonheads now) send you all our very best. Bravo, dear Friend and Teacher.

Karen S. Dean
Retired Administrative Staff
(now residing in Maine) 

Dear Bob,

I feel as if I were writing this Tribute from me and from my mother, Marjorie MacKown, who, like me, would have been thrilled at this very special event in honor of all your great work for the Eastman School. I was touched and thrilled when you asked me to play a piece by Richard Lane for one of the events of my 25th years after graduation. I wish I could be at this wonderful celebration. My sister Diana joins me in sending our very best wishes.

Rosemary MacKown, ESM BM ’55, MM ’57 

Dear Bob,

I am forever grateful to you for your wonderful support of the Cleveland Quartet. Our years at Eastman were marvelous years because of your very creative and inspired leadership. Bob, I send you congratulations for your lasting legacy at Eastman and many, many thanks.

With deep gratitude and appreciation,
Peter Salaff
Director of String Chamber Music the Cleveland Institute of Music 

Congratulations on your dedication of the Freeman Family Atrium at the Eastman School of Music and your Honorary Degree. Your contributions to the world of music have been innumerable on many levels, educational as well as creative.  You represent a standard of artistic achievement and integrity that is inspiring. I feel very privileged and grateful to have been part of the faculty during your tenure at the Eastman School of Music.

With warmest wishes to you and your family.

Sylvia Rosenberg

Dear Bob –

Due to health problems I was unable to attend the Tribute honoring your tenure and accomplishments during the years in your role as Director of ESM. Because of your reaching out to me, I became reacquainted with Eastman and totally enjoyed the years working with you on the Board of Managers. Your enthusiasm and energy were pervasive and your love of Eastman was obvious. Thanks for the many memories.

Leatrice E. Gochberg, BM ’61(ESM), MM ’63 (Manh School of Music)
Former member, Board of Managers
Honorary Board Member 


I’m sorry that I was not able to attend the ceremonies earlier this week in Rochester. But I will forever remember my years as a member of your Visiting Committee, and those wonderful dinners at your home, followed by a performance by some of Eastman’s most interesting and talented current students. I think that the performance by the very young Meliora Quartet was the first time that I had ever heard “chamber music” performed in the chamber, an experience that we later repeated in my own living room as a “dress rehearsal”, or “house concert” as you liked to call it, for my friends and neighbors before their acclaimed performances at Jordan Hall here in Boston. I will forever be grateful for these experiences, and join with everyone else in saying, Congratulations!

Gerry Katz, ’70
Member of the ESM Visiting Committee, 1982-1996 

Dear Bob,

I am very pleased to learn of the most appropriate honor bestowed upon you by the Eastman School of Music. Congratulations! Eastman is a far better place thanks to your many years of inspired leadership.

On a personal level, I have never emerged from time spent with you without a new thought. You personify those all-too-rare, invigorating people known as “lateral thinkers.” I have thoroughly enjoyed and profited from our friendship.

Thank you for all you have done for education and for music.

With all best wishes,


Robert W. Thayer, BM ESM 1949
Trustee Professor and Dean Emeritus
College of Musical Arts Bowling Green State University 

Dear Dr. Robert Freeman,

Thank you for your service to the Eastman School of Music and for your many contributions to music in general. Congratulations – your administration of ESM contributed to making the great institution a fruitful educational environment for many of us. Continued success in your future endeavors. All the best.

Dr. Luther L. Henderson, III
Professor of Music and Humanities
Director of Orchestral Activities
Los Angeles City College
ESM 1967 – 1973, B.M. ’71, M.M. ’73  

Dear Bob,

Bill (BM 1952, MA 1956) and I send our congratulations upon receiving an honorary doctorate from our beloved Eastman School. We also will be reminded of your remarkable Directorship whenever we enter the Freeman Atrium. Serving under you on the Alumni Advisory Council in the 70s was an honor and gave me insight into the many ways you kept Eastman moving ahead in our changing musical world.

All good wishes,

Doris Preucil (BM with distinction 1954)
Member, Eastman Honorary Board of Managers 

Composer-conductor Dan Welcher (BM ’69) is Professor of Composition and the Lee Hage Jamail Regents Professor in Fine Arts in the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin.  He wrote these limericks in honor of Dr. Freeman’s retirement from the  University.

A Retirement Ode to Robert Freeman

Let us sing of a scholar named Freeman!
As a child, he was constantly dreamin’
about Music and Art.
He was terribly smart,
And his parents could hardly stop beamin’.

In his youth, he would study the oboe.
He’d play Bach, and a lot of Rococo.
But the piano took over,
Which put him in clover—
Steinway became his new logo.

At Harvard, he soon would be workin’:
There were lessons with Balsam and Serkin!
But soon, he was found
To Princeton, where Einstein was lurkin’.

Ever curious, our hero would wander.
After Princeton, to M.I.T. yonder,
Then his true destination
Of three decades’ duration:
The Eastman School’s future to ponder.

There he thrived, as an able Headmaster.
He inspired his staff like a pastor.
And when troubles arose,
He would strike such a pose
That he thwarted ‘most every disaster.

Boston would beckon, again,
And Freeman (like most manly men)
Had to answer that call,
So he went in the fall
To New England: his moment of Zen.

There was one major move to be made:
Down to Texas, a total upgrade.
He became Fine Arts’ Dean,
Gave the Tower his spleen,
And made sure that attention was paid.

Now he’s eighty, still eager for more.
Doctor Freeman’s attained his fourscore.
And although he’s retiring,
He’ll still be perspiring
To keep art alive evermore.

Now that Bob’s reached his eightieth year
An occasion for champagne, not beer—
Let’s raise up our glasses!
The head of the class is
Bob Freeman: a stunning career!

Dan Welcher   (April 30, 2015)

Dear Bob —

Well, the celebration flew by without my ever hearing about it, and I never quite managed to work for you. That doesn’t dissuade me from extending my belated but heartiest congratulations not just for the chronological milestone but for the huge and lasting imprint you have left on all aspects of music education. You keep reminding us of everything we don’t want to look at. Keep it up! I know you’re far from being finished, but you should take great pride in the achievement to date.

Robert Winter
Distinguished Professor of Music
Presidential Chair in Music and Interactive Arts, UCLA

Never has someone been so deserving of tribute for doing so much for someone so tardy in getting around to it!

Bob, an entirely insufficient “thank you” for all you’ve meant to my career and life. For your conviction that music as an art was not whole without being married to critical reflection and the liberal arts. For your enthusiasm toward and encouragement of a young philosopher only too eager to meddle promiscuously in everyone else’s discipline. For your infectious conviction that the Eastman School must be an innovator among music schools, both different and better and exemplary. For your confidence in my promise as an academic administrator and leader and the good example you set for me. For your irrepressible incapability of entertaining a banal thought or modest ambition. For the abundant fruitfulness of your imagination and your uncanny knack for persuading others to share your dreams. For your devotion to young, promising talent and your ability to nurture it.

For your friendship over these many years. And Carol’s. Thank you.

My thanks also to Jamal and many dear friends on the Eastman School faculty for recognizing the Freeman legacy at the Eastman School. Sincerest affections to all of you and to the extraordinary school you are and that I was honored to be part of.


Doug Dempster
Dean, College of Fine Arts
University of Texas at Austin 


The Crisis of Classical Music in America - Lessons from a Life in the Education of Musicians - Robert Freeman

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