Kenneth Freed was born and raised in New York. He attended the Henry Street Settlement Music School in Lower Manhattan before attending the Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division, where he studied violin with Louise Behrend. He attended Yale College where he majored in Literature, writing his senior thesis on James Joyce’s use of Old Testament theology in his epic Ulysses. As an undergrad he was the winner of the William Waithe Concerto Competition, and he was leader of the Berkeley College Chamber Players. Upon graduation, Ken studied in London with Helen Dowling, making ends meet by busking and working part time at Bernard Quaritch, an antiquarian bookshop near Piccadilly Circus. He returned to Yale to continue his violin studies with Syoko Aki Erle, and was awarded the Broadus Erle Prize as well as a Masters of Music degree.
Ken played in the Norfolk and Richmond Symphonies before returning to New York to play second violin in the acclaimed Manhattan String Quartet with whom he toured internationally, taught at Colgate University and Interlochen. He freelanced in New York, playing in the Broadway pits of Kiss of the Spider Woman, Carousel, Anything Goes, Tommy, Phantom of The Opera, Secret Garden and Hello Dolly. Ken also performed as a regular sub in the viola section of the New York Philharmonic.
Joining the Minnesota Orchestra viola section in 1998, Ken has pursued two passionate interests. He is the Founder and Board Chair of a non -profit, Learning Through Music, that is now housed at the McNally Smith College of Music. The organization’s mission is to put music at the center of every child’s education. He also conducts the Mankato Symphony and next season will be participating in the Mankato Pow Wow as well as the orchestra’s second Minnesota State Arts Board Tour throughout southern Minnesota. He is now in his fifth season as Music Director.
Ken and his wife Gwen are avid ballroom dancers. They have three children, Zachary, Nellie and Jonah, two of whom are now at Oberlin.