New director unites VCU and Richmond chorus

Award-winning conductor Erin Freeman will direct both VCU choral activities and the Richmond Symphony Chorus in the fall semester. Image courtesy of Erin Freeman.

Chris Suarez
Staff Writer

This fall semester, the VCU and Richmond community will officially be joined with the creation of a choral activities director for both VCU and Richmond Symphony Chorus.

Erin Freeman, an award-winning doctor of the arts, educated at Northwestern University, Boston University and the Peabody Conservatory of Music, was selected to be the first leader in the newly-created position.

VCU Music and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra have long worked with each other from a distance, with musicians and performers from the university and symphony becoming students, professors and mentors for each other.

“We were both interested in having a director of choral activities for RSO and VCU that would be a really strong person with some depth to their career,” said Darryl Harper, current chair of the VCU Department of Music. “We thought by combining resources we could attract the best people to the job for the long-term.”

Throughout her career, Freeman has conducted with the Buffalo Philharmonic, the South Carolina Philharmonic, the Savannah Symphony and the Richmond Ballet and has worked with ensembles in Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Missouri and Illinois. 

“As an associate conductor in the orchestra, I got to know VCU pretty well,” Freeman said. “I know how vibrant and forward-thinking the music department here is, and has the potential to continue to be.”

Prior to accepting the new position, Freeman worked for RSO as the James Erb Choral Chair and director of its choir.

“It was pretty clear when she started working with us that she’d be a force of energy,” said RSO executive director David Fisk. “She’s been a breath of fresh air, brought great ideas and hunger for trying to reach new audiences through presentation.”

Under her new position at VCU, Freeman will be instructing the Choral Arts Society and the Commonwealth Singers and overseeing the Choral Chamber Music program.

Freeman says her passion for teaching came from her grandmother who encouraged her to serve the community and others in whatever she did. Prior to accepting her new position at VCU, Freeman was involved in music education, having worked as a secondary-level educator in Savannah, Georgia and at Emory University. 

“You’ve done your best as a teacher, instructor, conductor or whatever else when your students have figured out a way to function without you,” Freeman said. “It’s those moments when … you watch them use those skills you’ve taught so that they can coach themselves. That’s the most exciting part about being in a setting like this.”

Freeman says she hopes to impart her knowledge and inspire students to pursue their education in music as much as they can, whether it be in performance, education or any other discipline where music can play an important role, such as psychological therapy or even music education advocacy. 

Between engagements with various orchestras and symphonies throughout the country, Freeman says she’s lived in Richmond for the last nine years, most recently in the Forest Hill area with her husband, Drew, and their beagle, Quigley.

“I wasn’t expecting to like Richmond this much when I started working here with the Richmond Philharmonic,” said Freeman. “There’s something about it that reminds me of Atlanta from when I was growing up. Every one’s really friendly and genuine. I think it’s a little gem that I don’t think people really know about.”

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