As the daughter of a police officer might aspire to follow in her parent’s footsteps of civil service or the son of a teacher might dream of entering the realm of education, Ken Freudigman always imagined someday taking up the family business common to his parents and both sets of grandparents: music.
Freudigman, a Detroit native, began playing the violin at age six but “came to (his) senses at nine and switched to the cello.”
He studied cello at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts and earned his bachelors from the Eastman School of Music before beginning his professional career with the Rochester Philharmonic. He was a founding member of the Esterhazy Chamber Ensemble and played in many small regional orchestras in Michigan, Virginia and South Carolina.
Freudigman spent four years with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach in 1992 under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, played with the Virginia Symphony and Mexico City Philharmonic and finally landed in San Antonio in 2000, where he serves as principal cello in the San Antonio Symphony. “I’ve been with the Symphony ever since,” he said.
But that’s not all that the cellist has been doing here in the Alamo City. In 2003, Freudigman co-founded Camerata, “one of the city’s premier professional ensembles,” as John Burnham wrote earlier this fall for The Rivard Report (“Camerata San Antonio Celebrates Anniversary: Season Opens Today”) with his wife, assistant principal violist Emily Watkins Freudigman, also of the San Antonio Symphony. Ken serves as artistic director for the group, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.
In addition to his Symphony and Camerata duties, Freudigman teaches private lessons to students as young as eight through college. His studio has ranged in size from 10 to 21 students, “but I’m never doing that again,” he said of the large number.
“It’s a mixed group. Some are taking lessons just because they love music, some because they have a true passion for it and a few because their parents are making them,” he explained. “Whatever their motivation, there’s a lot I can teach them – and not just about playing the cello, but about life lessons like perseverance and goal setting.
“Playing a string instrument is a very difficult thing. Coordinating the left and right hand on this foreign instrument can be very daunting and I’m always amazed at what some young children can do.”
The youngest student Freudigman has formally taught was 6, though he added that his own son – who just turned 5 – is beginning his own study of music and the cello.
One of Fruedigman’s former students, Christine Lamprea, returned to San Antonio earlier this month for a concert with pianist Daniel Anastasio, as covered by Elise Urrutia for The Rivard Report (“Young Musical Duo Returns to San Antonio, Wows Hometown Audience”).
“There was a lesson where I gave her very specific instructions about how to work on a passage,” recalled Freudigman. Sending Christine into the other room for practice while he instructed her younger sister, “I heard her practice the way I wanted for about 30 seconds and then return to playing at tempo. I told her, ‘If you practice the way I want you to you will get better so much faster.’ She thanked me later for ‘the lesson where I stomped on her,’” he said, laughing, “and for showing her how to really dig down and practice well. Now she’s winning competitions all over the place.”
Elisabeth Wang is one of Freudigman’s current students.
“I have had a total of four cello teachers within the past three years, including Mr. Freudigman. He has been my favorite cello teacher because he gives me detailed and honest feedback about my sound and cello technique,” Wang wrote in an email. “One time during one of my lessons, Mr. Freudigman had me put my cello down and skip outside to illustrate how happy the music I was playing should make me feel.”
The thoughtful young musician began playing piano at age five and cello at age 10, and explained that playing both instruments offers her “different ways to hear and play the music” while helping her to become a better musician overall. “Mr. Freudigman inspires me to listen more carefully as I play to convey the meaning of the music,” she stated. “He is a dynamic instructor and musician and has contributed immensely to the music education ecosystem of the city.
Freudigman directs the YOSA symphony orchestra, whose season runs August to May. He also conducts at the YOSA summer camps and is an adjunct professor of cello at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “I’m on UTSA’s campus once a week,” he explained, “and I teach mostly education majors who have an emphasis on cello, but also a few performance majors.”
Fortunately for the arts in San Antonio, the Freudigman family is here to stay: “For years, as a young cellist moving around, I always hoped to put roots down in a community. Finding San Antonio, with its rich, fertile ground for music performance and education, has been a great fit.”
This is the third in a periodic series of stories focusing on San Antonio Symphony musicians and their place in the music education ecosystem.
Full disclosure: The Arsenal Group LLC, which publishes the Rivard Report, performs consulting services for the San Antonio Symphony. The Rivard Report, however, does not publish sponsored stories.
Miriam Sitz is a freelance writer in San Antonio. A graduate of Trinity University, she blogs on Miriam210.com. Follow her on Twitter at @miriamsitz and click here for more stories from Miriam Sitz on the Rivard Report.