From Speculation to Manifestation

Artist Profile: Emory Freeman, clarinetist

An emerging soloist, orchestral player, chamber musician, and educator, Emory Freeman explores the various ways music can inspire others to reach their fullest potential. His communities in Cincinnati and Virginia are intrinsic to his artistic identity.

Hailing from Central Virginia, his musical upbringing began in a humble band room on clarinet and saxophone. He eventually expanded into youth orchestras, high school show choir, marching band, and wind ensemble. Like most soon-to-be music majors, Emory was definitely considered a “band geek.” Most of his free time was spent practicing, rehearsing, studying, and volunteering at local elementary schools. His dream was to be the principal clarinetist of a symphony orchestra. Understandably, his parents and peers were skeptical about his choice to major in music. As a young Black male, there were definitely times where he questioned the wisdom of his career choices as well.

Once he was studying at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Emory found the importance of citizen artistry. Citizen artists are individuals who reimagine the traditional notions of art-making, and who contribute to society either through the transformative power of their artistic abilities, or through proactive social engagement with the arts in realms including education, community building, diplomacy and healthcare.

Throughout all of his undergraduate studies, Emory had the opportunity to practice citizen artistry. From a benefit recital to a Christmas community concert, Freeman enjoyed developing his parameters as a citizen artist. He says:

“I view myself as a superhero that shares his unique artistic capabilities to provide accessibility and heal traumatized communities. Citizen artistry really allowed me to pursue my career goals with a new value and passion.”

In the summer of 2019, Emory broke his right wrist in a tragic car accident that imperiled his career path as a clarinetist. After multiple surgeries, sticks, metal plates, and screws, more trials and tribulations ensued during the recovery process. He suffered excruciating pain when he played too long. Although this accident was traumatizing, it forced Emory to realize that he had an important decision to make: sacrifice his health to keep up with a rigorous performance track or find another area of interest. Fortunately, his teachers and peers understood his health conditions and were very accommodating during his lengthy recovery. He thinks about that experience every time he gets on stage or serves a community. 

Before the accident, Freeman shared a stage with professional ensembles throughout Richmond, Virginia including the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and the pit orchestra for Virginia Repertory Theater. Now that he’s more healed, he has performed as a soloist with the Wind Symphony at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Additional ensembles include Chamber Winds, and the CCM Philharmonia, once under the baton of Louis Langrée. Performing in small ensembles ranging from duos to double wind quintets, he is a versatile and enthusiastic collaborator. Coaches such as Dr. Magda Adamek and Dr. Tiffany Valvo influenced his kinetic approach to ensemble playing.

Over the Summers, Emory has received fellowships and attended the National Orchestral Institute, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Summer Institute, the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival and the Buffet Crampon Summer Clarinet Academy. He has also played in masterclasses for Yehuda Gilad, Anton Rist, and Ralph Skiano.

An advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the arts, Emory has served as the treasurer for the CCM Black Student Alliance and as an IDEA Committee member for the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. He has been privileged to work with and host discussions around DEI with personnel from the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Emory has also attended SphinxConnect in Detroit, Michigan where he was able to connect with other diverse leaders in the artistic community.

Emory began his Master of Music studies on full scholarship at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music in the Fall of 2019. He previously graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University receiving a Bachelor of Music Degree. At VCU, Emory was nominated by faculty to receive the Outstanding Achievement in Performance Award, an award that is given to one graduating student annually. His primary teachers include Chris Pell, Ixi Chen, Dr. Tiffany Valvo, and Charles West.

Emory is currently a finalist for the principal clarinet position in Montana’s Great Falls Symphony and various regional bands in the Armed Forces. Closer to manifesting his dream, he says: 

“The most difficult thing I had to learn was how to choose my battles and manage priorities. You can either work hard and be financially literate or settle for a minimum wage job. Both paths will have their own battles. If we chose them consciously, it makes the visual manifestation of our dreams a lot easier.” 

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