Kenneth Freed is an orchestral player and conductor, chamber musician, educator, and social entrepreneur.
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 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.
Orchestral music has been the primary focus of his career. 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.
For 12 seasons, Freed was Music Director of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra in southern Minnesota, where he raised the artistic level of performances and collaborated with staff and board to enhance community engagement. Thanks to his innovative programming, the orchestra was awarded three NEA Fast-track awards and received a transformational bequest of $500,000. His conducting training has included the National Symphony Orchestra’s Conductor’s Institute at the Kennedy Center under Maestro Leonard Slatkin and master classes with Jorma Panula. For the 2005-06 season, he served as assistant conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra under Music Director Osmo Vänskä.
Freed was a Founder of Learning Through Music Consulting Group, a music education nonprofit organization that used music as a teaching tool to improve children’s learning outcomes. Learning Through Music received federal and local grants as well as private support to work in public schools, and partnered with Minneapolis Public Schools. the 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 help support the program in Mankato summer schools. Continuing in this vein, he is currently working with a Community Music School in Vietnam to broaden the reach of music in public and private education.
Freed has been participating in Minnesota Triathalons at the Sprint level while on a Minnesota Orchestra tour participated in the London AJ Bell Triathalon two years ago.
He and his wife Gwendolyn have three children: Zachary, Eleanor and Jonah.