Value bombs galore! Patrick Freer of Georgia State University offers so much amazing insight on working with middle-school-aged choir members, and thinking about your program in a way that respects the importance of a complete vocal education.

Episode 32



Dr. Patrick K. Freer is Professor of Music at Georgia State University. He is a former Interim Director of the School of Music. He holds Affiliate Faculty status with the Institute of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His degrees are from Westminster Choir College and Teachers College, Columbia University.  He has guest conducted or presented in 36 states and 16 countries, including the 2014 Southwest Division ACDA Junior High Honor Choir. He has presented at six National Conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and five National Conferences of the National Association for Music Education. In 2015-16, he will serve as keynote speaker and guest conductor for the inaugural Symposium of Singing and Song (St. Johns, Canada), the Changing Voice Symposium (Oberlin Conservatory), and guest conductor of regional and All-State choirs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, and Missouri.

         Dr. Freer is Academic Editor and Chair of the Editorial Committees for Music Educators Journal and has authored multiple book chapters and over 120 articles in most of the field’s leading national and international journals.  Publications include “Getting Started with Middle School Chorus” (named Outstanding Academic Title by Choice) and the DVD series Success for Adolescent Singers.  His most recent publications include articles in the 2015-16 volume years of the British Journal of Music Education, Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, Research Studies in Music Education, Music Education Research, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, and Canadian Music Educator. Dr. Freer’s research focus is on the sociological and pedagogical factors impacting the singing of boys during and beyond the adolescent voice change.

Dr. Freer lives in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Kevin Sullivan, their son Eliel, and two rescue pitbulls, Luka and Zaira.

The moment you knew you’d dedicate your life to music

When Patrick went to college at Grove City (Pittsburgh) and was a lost freshman looking for the pre-law program and his advisor, he went to the wrong building and found the choir director instead. He wound up assisting with Fiddler on the Roof auditions that day by playing piano for some auditions. The professor asked why he wasn’t majoring in music? Pat replied that it was because his middle school music teacher told him he couldn’t sing! This choral director proceeded to work with him right there and then and helped him realise that he could indeed sing.“From there I wondered what my (past) teacher should have known and how my life would have been different if he hadn’t told me I couldn’t sing,” said Patrick, and he decided from that point on that he wouldn’t let that happened to others. “It’s all about opportunities and support,” he adds. “So many kids could be singing but aren’t because they got the wrong message or never got the opportunity. “

Worst musical moment

Pat started teaching in a high school with a very small choral program and then moved to the middle school in the same district, which had a huge program. The first day that he was auditioning students for the choir he heard an audible growl outside the door. He asked the student, a young man, what he was doing. “I’m trying to get my voice to change so you’ll keep me in the choir,” the boy said. Pat realised at that point that had come full circle. “How I respond is going to determine whether he sings for the rest of his life,” he thought. At the same time, he felt like he had failed in setting up the auditions. He should have said it was just a placement audition not an “accept you or kick you out moment.” He began to view choir auditions differently.

The proudest musical moment

Patrick’s proudest musical moment was conducting his first concert after graduating from college, a moment when he realized he had become what he might have missed entirely.

Your “Forte”

Patrick excels in bringing people to singing, especially those who think that they can’t. Specifically, he enjoys working with the adolescent boy who got the message that he’s not good at singing or that it’s not cool. He wants to unpack that baggage and figure out what he can do to help that boy move forward. He notes he has learned to be a good teacher and good communicator, finding out what his potential singers need. He discovered that they most often need confidence. His emphasis is on what kind of impact he can make on the lives of individual singers during the brief period of time that they’re with him and he believes other teachers should strive towards the same. Patrick believes teachers should teach singers to sing choral music not just teach choral music. Patrick reminds Choir Nation that there’s a community component to singing that can be a little risky, especially for adolescents. It’s like walking a tightrope – both exciting and challenging. A conductor needs to reach that balance between the two.

Most excited about right now

Patrick is excited about a book he recently started writing, centering on the issue of what happened to singing instruction in schools and focusing on the question of why we now concentrate only on performance.

Book Discussed

In Quest of Answers: Interviews With American Choral Conductors


Patrick’s email