The Eastman School of Music will honor former director Robert Freeman for his long-time service to the school and to the Rochester community by naming the atrium of its Sibley Music Library in his honor.
During the dedication ceremony, which will be held Tuesday, April 7, at 3 p.m. in the library, Freeman also will receive the honorary degree Doctor of Music from the University of Rochester. In addition, Eastman faculty and staff members and students will pay tribute to Freeman with a series of performances and presentations from 9:30 to 11:45 a.m. in Hatch Recital Hall, followed by a special “Tuesday Pipes” organ concert at 12:10 p.m. in Christ Church, 141 East Ave. The Hatch Hall and Christ Church events are free and open to the public.
Freeman was named director of Eastman in 1972. Over the course of his 24-year tenure, he hired many outstanding faculty members, oversaw renovations and new construction, spearheaded tours and recordings by the Eastman Wind Ensemble and Eastman Philharmonia with major artists, and was instrumental in the development of Rochester’s Cultural District.
Nationally, Dr. Freeman is known as an innovator in music school curriculum, urging educational changes to supplement artistic training with programs teaching real-world entrepreneurial skills.
“Robert Freeman’s tenure at Eastman was a time of great accomplishments for our faculty members and students, and a period of growth in Eastman’s national and international visibility,” said Jamal Rossi, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the Eastman School of Music. “His vision for Eastman truly guided the school into the 21st century.”
A retrospective exhibit of Dr. Freeman’s contributions, including his creative endeavors as a pianist and musicologist, will be on display in the Sibley Music Library in Miller Center. Dr. Freeman spearheaded the move and expansion of the library, which up until 1989 had been located on Swan Street behind the main building of the Eastman School of Music. In addition, a retrospective of the Freeman years told in photographs by the late Louis Ouzer will be on display in the school’s Lowry Hall
Achievements at Eastman
Freeman recruited numerous top faculty members, including such nationally known figures as mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani, a respected singer and champion of contemporary music, and the Cleveland Quartet. He produced the Eastman Philharmonia’s 1983 East Coast tour, in which Pittsburgh Pirates star Willie Stargell was the narrator for Joseph Schwantner’s New Morning for the World. The work was recorded later that year; the record also included Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, which earned baritone and Eastman graduate William Warfield a Grammy for his narration of Copland’s work. In 1987, the Eastman Wind Ensemble recorded Carnaval with cornetist Wynton Marsalis, a recording of early 20th-century band music that reached no. 1 on the Billboard CD charts and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Three years later, the Wind Ensemble embarked on the first of its six biennial tours of Japan, playing to standing-room-only audiences throughout the country.
Studies initiated during Dr. Freeman’s tenure led to a series of academic changes at Eastman. New programs and courses were developed to prepare students to navigate changes in the music profession. One of the first to recognize the need for more varied curricula to provide artists with broader skills, Dr. Freeman continues to receive national attention for his vision, most recently for his 2014 book, The Crisis of Classical Music in America: Lessons from a Life in the Education of Musicians. The book is available in the Eastman Bookstore and Freeman will be signing copies on April 7.
As the neighborhood around the school declined, Freeman worked with the City of Rochester to clean up the surrounding area. Beginning in 1975, he took a leading role in the development of the Cultural District, which included a new street-circulation system, a new YMCA, and a new parking garage. The opening of Eastman Place, now named Miller Center, and a new Student Living Center on Gibbs Street cemented the Eastman School’s role as the musical anchor for downtown.
In 1982, Freeman was awarded the Rochester Chamber of Commerce Civic Medal in recognition of his work in the revitalization of the downtown area. Eight years later, the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Academic, performing roles
Dr. Freeman is an accomplished pianist, musicologist, and administrator, who came to Eastman after serving as a faculty member at Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to his writings on the future of the education of musicians, he has published on a variety of topics in 18th-century music history. Dr. Freeman has held leadership positions in several professional and scholarly organizations, including the American Musicological Society, the College Music Society, and the National Association of Schools of Music.
Appointed president of the New England Conservatory in 1996, Dr. Freeman moved to the University of Texas at Austin in 2000 as dean of the College of Fine Arts. He stepped down as dean in 2006 and currently holds the Susan Menefee Ragan Regents Professorship in Fine Arts. He is a member of the board of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation and of the National Center for Human Performance at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.
A Steinway artist since the mid-1970s, Freeman has been a soloist with the Boston Pops, Jacksonville Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, and other orchestras. He has appeared in recital as a collaborative pianist throughout the United States and Europe, and is featured on recordings for Desto, Vox, and Pantheon.
Dr. Freeman earned a Bachelor of Music degree with highest honors from Harvard University and a diploma in piano performance from the Longy School of Music. In 1957-58 he held one of Harvard’s Sheldon Travelling Fellowships. At Princeton University, he was awarded an MFA and a Ph.D in musicology.
A website with photos, recordings, and an opportunity to leave tributes to Dr. Freeman can be found at https://www.esm.rochester.edu/freeman/ .
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Tuesday, April 7
Robert Freeman: A Musical Tribute. Presentations and performances by Eastman School of Music faculty members and students in honor of the former director of Eastman.
9:30 to 11:45 a.m.
Hatch Recital Hall, 433 East Main St.
Free and open to the public
Tuesday Pipes Organ Concert
12:10 to 12:40 p.m.
Christ Church, 141 East Avenue
Free and open to the public
Freeman Family Atrium Dedication
Sibley Library, Miller Center, 25 Gibbs St.
Free and open to the public