The American composer and pianist, Don Freund, studied at Duquesne University (BM 1969), and earned his graduate degrees at the Eastman School of Music (MM 1970, DMA 1972). His composition teachers were Joseph Willcox Jenkins, Darius Milhaud, Charles Jones, Wayne Barlow, Warren Benson, and Samuel Adler.
Don Freund has composed works ranging from solo, chamber, and orchestral music to pieces involving live performances with electronic instruments, music for dance, and large theatre works. An internationally recognized composer, he is also active as a pianist, conductor, and lecturer. From 1972 to 1992 he was chairman of the Composition Department at Memphis State University. As founder and coordinator of Memphis State University’s Annual New Music Festival, he programmed close to a thousand new American works; he has been conductor or pianist in the performance of some two hundred new pieces, usually in collaboration with the composer.
As Professor of Composition at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music since 1992, teaching composition continues to be a major component of Don Freund’s career. Freund’s students from 30 years of teaching continue to win an impressive array of awards and recognitions. He has also served as guest composer at a vast array of universities and music festivals. He has served as composer-in-residence at the Australian National Academy of Music, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Brevard Music Center and has given lectures and master-classes at Royal Conservatories in Brussels, Prague, Vienna, the Hague, the Royal Academy of Music in London, and Tanglewood Music Center. In the fall of 2005 Freund toured Asia, giving master-classes and lecture recitals in Seoul, Miyazaki, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, and Bangkok, and returned in 2009 to various universities in Taiwan to give recitals, lectures, and master-classes. Lectures from his 6-hour series entitled “Composition Lessons with JS Bach,” using color-coded scores and piano excerpts to make J.S. Bach’s WTC Book 1 (BWV 846-869) a living creative experience, are available on YouTube.
Don Freund has received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (Cello Concerto; Passion with Tropes), grants from Jacobs School of Music to compose the ballet Madame Bovary and Earthdance Concerto. Commissions including the Tennessee Arts Commission with Opera Memphis (Opera: The Bishop’s Ghost), Tennessee Music Teachers Association (Pastoral Symphony), the Memphis City Schools (Vista for Three String Orchestras), the Memphis in May International Festival (Springsongs), the Verdehr Trio (Triomusic), the Tennessee Department of Education (Jug Blues & Fat Pickin’ for the Governor’s School Wind Ensemble), the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (Hard Cells), the Jubal Trio (Backyard Songs), Memphis Ballet (Alice in Wonderland), the International Viola Congress (Fanfare for Violas), the Patiche Ensemble (Rough and Tumble), Florida State University and Indiana University (Beyond the Brass Gates), the Rodrigo Riera International Guitar Festival (One Singer, Two Voices), Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory (Primavera Doubles), Voces Novae (Childhood Awakening), Robert and Sara LeBien (Quilt Horizon), Germantown Symphony Orchestra (Preludes for Orchestra), Whatcom Symphony Orchestra (Word on the Street), Ensemble Zellig (Crunch Time), and the Indiana Music Teachers Association (Autumnsongs). Prizes include the Washington International String Quartet Composition Competition, the International Society for Contemporary Music/League of Composers International Piano Music Competition, the AGO/ECS Publishing Award in Choral Composition (God’s Grandeur), the Rodrigo Riera International Competition for Guitar Composition (Stirrings), the Hanson Prize, the McCurdy Award, the Aspen Prize, 25 ASCAP Awards, and a Macgeorge Fellowship from the University of Melbourne, Australia. In 2005, Freund was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Romeo and Juliet: A Shakespearian Music-Drama, which was given its premiere production by the Bloomington Playwrights Project in 2008.
Recent performances of Don Freund’s music include Primavera Doubles and Sunscapes by the Brevard Festival Orchestra, Radical Light by the Kansas City Symphony, Sinfonietta by the IU Concert Orchestra and the Interlochen World Youth Symphony Orchestra, End of Summer (orchestral winds) at the Aspen Music Festival, Departing Flights (piano trio) premiered by Composers, Inc. in San Francisco, Hard Cells for 14 instruments by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Feux d’artifice-Tombeau (solo piano) and Departing Flights at Merkin Hall (ISCM/League series), Soft Cells (15 instruments) and Quilt Horizon by New Music Ensembles at Indiana University and University of Southern California, Life of the Party (Concerto for Bassoon and 16 friends) at the Melbourne International Double Reed Conference, and Sky Scrapings (alto saxophone and piano) in Prague and Montreal. The Indiana University Ballet Theatre premiered his ballets, Madame Bovary, Skin Rituals, and Earthdance Concerto. Recent CD releases include Madame Bovary Ballet Suite, Soft Cells, Viola Concerto, Dissolving Music (Indiana University Orchestra and New Music Ensemble, IUSOM-10 distributed by Albany), Trio-music (Verdehr Trio on Crystal), Jug Blues & Fat Pickin’ (Cincinnati CCM Wind Ensemble on Klavier), Pentecost and Hard Cells (Indiana New Music Ensemble), Radical Light (Bowling Green Phlharmonia on Albany), Rough and Tumble (Pastiche Ensemble on ACF-Innova) and Backyard Songs (Jubal Trio on CRI).
His works are published by Lauren Keiser Music, Boosey and Hawkes, E.C. Schirmer, Seesaw, and Vivace Press.
As a pianist, Don Freund’s recital repertoire has extended back from new music to several complete performances of J.S. Bach’s WTC Book I (BWV 846-869) and his own pianistic realizations of Machaut. He has performed his Earthdance Concerto with wind ensembles at Florida State University, West Virginia University, and Bowling Green State University.