Kenneth Freed is an orchestral player and conductor, chamber musician, educator and social entrepreneur. He has been a member of the Minnesota Orchestra viola section since 1998. Before he joined the orchestra, Freed played second violin in the internationally acclaimed Manhattan String Quartet.
A violist and violinist, Freed started music lessons at the Henry Street Settlement Music School in lower Manhattan with Elizabeth Weickert before attending the Juilliard Pre-College Division studying with Louise Behrend. He then received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Yale College and a Master of Music Performance degree from Yale University School of Music studying violin with Syoko Aki Erle. While at Yale, he was awarded the William Waithe Concerto Competition Prize, the Broadus Earle Memorial Prize for Violin and the Tokyo String Quartet Prize for Chamber Music. He then studied in London with Helen Dowling, a student and assistant to Georges Enescu.
Freed is enjoying his tenth season as Music Director of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra in southern Minnesota, where he has raised the artistic level of performances and collaborated with staff and board to enhance community engagement and garner increased contributed income. Due to his innovative programming, the orchestra has been awarded two NEA Fast Track awards. This fall, thanks to local support and a state bonding bill, the orchestra will be moving into its new home at the Mankato Civic Center. The orchestra recently signed Freed to a five-year extension of his contract. His conducting training has included the National Symphony Orchestra’s Conductor’s Institute at the Kennedy Center and master classes with Jorma Panula. For the 2005-2006 season, he served as assistant conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra under Music Director Osmo Vänskä.
Freed founded Learning Through Music, a music education nonprofit organization that used music as a teaching tool to improve learning outcomes for over a decade. Learning Through Music received federal and local grants as well as private support to work in public schools, and partnered with Minneapolis Public Schools, University of Minnesota, the MacPhail Center for Music and the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies. For his work with children, Freed won a Yale Music School Alumni award which helps to support programs in Mankato summer schools. He is currently developing software using music which he hopes will prevent and reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Freed has been quietly returning to his first love, the violin, and will be performing with the newly formed Bekesh Trio in southern Minnesota starting next season.