19 October 2022
It is with great sadness I write to inform you that Robert Freeman, director of Eastman from 1972-96, passed away last night in Austin, Texas. Throughout my time as dean, Bob and I spoke monthly, and sometimes weekly, and he has become a good friend.
Robert Freeman’s 24 years at Eastman were a time of great growth for our school. As director, Bob oversaw a major expansion in the campus, including a new Student Living Center and a new building for the Sibley Music Library. He appointed many distinguished artists and scholars to the Eastman faculty, while pointing the school’s curriculum towards the realities of the musical world. He helped to increase national and international exposure for such Eastman performing groups as the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, and Philharmonia. An enthusiastic and opinionated Rochesterian, he was a leader of the development of the downtown Cultural District, and an articulate spokesperson on the subject of Eastman’s responsibility to the Rochester community.
For those of you who knew Bob personally, I extend my condolences on the passing of your friend and colleague. For those who did not know Bob, I encourage you to read “Nurturing the Love of Music: Robert Freeman and the Eastman School of Music,” by Eastman Historian Vince Lenti.
Joan and Martin Messinger Dean
Eastman School of Music
Robert Schofield Freeman
Robert Schofield Freeman was born August 26, 1935 in Rochester, NY, and died October 18, 2022 in Austin, TX. Carol Jean Freeman, his beloved wife of 42 years, predeceased him the summer of 2018. Katharine Merk McNally, his first wife and the mother of his children, also passed in 2018. He is survived by his brother, James Douglas Freeman, his children, John Frederick Freeman and Elizabeth Katharine Poon, and his stepson, Scott Alan Henry. He has four grandchildren: Morgan Freeman, Connor Freeman, Benjamin Poon and Nicholas Poon.
Bob lived an accomplished life in the service of classical music, a family legacy. His paternal grandfather played in John Philip Sousa’s Band in 1910–1911 before becoming the first professor of trumpet at the renowned Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Both his parents were early graduates of the Eastman School. His father performed in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and became principal bassist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His mother was an accomplished freelance violinist.
A precociously talented oboist and pianist, Bob earned B.A. in music summa cum laude from Harvard College and a diploma in piano performance from the Longy School of Music while performing as a professional oboist in Boston. He earned an M.F.A. and Ph.D. at Princeton University and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Vienna.
Bob served initially on the Music faculties of Princeton and MIT. From 1972 to 1996, he was director of the Eastman School of Music, where he was a galvanizing and transformative influence on the school and the City of Rochester. He preserved and expanded the Eastman School campus, which then served as a bulwark against the urban decline threatening the city center. He built a faculty dedicated in equal measures to the performance, academic study, and teaching of music. He led a nationwide rethinking and reformation of collegiate music education in America.
After leaving the Eastman School, he served as president of the New England Conservatory, and in 2000 he became dean of the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin in 2000. He taught for many years after stepping down as dean, retiring in 2015 as the Susan Menefee Ragan Regents Professor of Fine Arts and was as an emeritus professor of Musicology after his retirement.
Bob is the author of numerous published articles on music, as well as several books, including The Crisis of Classical Music in America: Lessons from a Life in the Education of Musicians (2014), Gilbert Kalish: American Pianist (2021) and Woof!: A Love Story of Dogs, Music and Life (2019). He also had recently completed his autobiography, as well as a major new book about the future of the American orchestra.
Bob was awarded an honorary degree in April 2015 by the Eastman School of Music, which named the atrium of its Sibley Music Library the “Freeman Family Atrium.” He was also a senior educational liaison for Music in the Air (MITA), a revolutionary computer-mediated means of learning music.
Throughout his active and varied career, Bob was devoted to ensuring a place for serious musical composition, scholarship, and music making in American life. The
deeply held principles that underlay his life’s work include honesty, teamwork, a respect for others, and a dedication to protecting the environment for future generations.
Memorial services will be held in Austin, TX and Rochester, NY at a later time. Gifts in memory of Bob may be made to one of the following:
- “The Robert and Carol Freeman Scholarship Fund” at the Eastman School of Music (www.esm.rochester.edu/freeman/scholarship-fund);
- “Music Scholarships at the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin” (The College of Fine Arts, Office of the Dean, Attn: Laura Cunningham, 2301 Trinity Street STOP D1400, Austin, TX 78712);
- The musical institution of your choice.