Professor Patrick Freer Travels to Bogota, Colombia for a Conductor Residency

The School of Music faculty continues to connect across the globe, this time in South America where Professor of Music, Patrick K. Freer recently returned from a Conductor in Residence program with the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá (Colombia).

The residency incorporated Professor Freer’s research area of working with adolescent boys and their changing voices. Professor Freer led workshops and classes, as well visited numerous Bogotá inner-city schools to interview these students about their experiences with choral singing as their voices changed. Among the highlights included Professor Freer conducting the American Spirituals with the Coro Filarmónico Juvenil, a 45-voice professional choir, held at the Auditorio Fabio Lozano, Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano.


A rewarding experience, Professor Freer points out four standout moments during the residency:

• First, I had the opportunity to work with the Philharmonic-supported Boys Choir.  I was able to share my research about managing the choristers’ changing voices in real time, showing the students and their teachers the immediate impact of age-appropriate vocal technique.
• Second, my research visits to Bogotá schools demonstrated that music teachers who work in the most impoverished communities have a profound influence on the musical lives of their students, perhaps more so than those who work in affluent schools. These students rarely know anything beyond their schools and communities due to their extreme levels of poverty. They were insulated from any negative stereotypes typically associated with choral singing — they only knew that they loved singing and working with their teachers. That was powerful.
• The third and most thrilling moment was during the final day of the conducting course in which the participants worked with the professional choir of the Philharmonic. On this day, I offered podium time to some of the participants with less experience. One 24-year old young man began conducting and quickly realized that the choir could respond to almost any gesture he made. For a few moments he was like a wizard, throwing all sorts of gestures to see what would happen. He finally relaxed and began to conduct with aesthetic awareness and gestural nuance . . . and the choir followed him. The result was four minutes of pure magic, after which nearly everyone in the room was in tears. We all knew this young conductor had a transformative musical experience that he would carry with him forever.
• Finally, I had been asked to program a concert of American music for the closing gala event with the Philharmonic’s professional choir. I chose a repertoire that demonstrated the history and diversity of the American concert spiritual. The choir was fascinated to learn the history of the individual selections, and worked through correct performance practice for each piece. The concert was so successful that the audience demanded three encores . . . a first for me!


The residency took place from November 12-20, 2017 and was fully funded by the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra.

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Photo Credit: Kike Barona (Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá)