Dr. Robert Fruehwald, professor of musical composition, music theory, and electronic music, has always had a passion for music, especially in composition because he says, “I am never satisfied with things as they are; I always want to change things in order to create something new.”
Robert remained in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., to complete his bachelor’s degree in musical composition at the University of Louisville. He then went to Los Angeles to become a film composer and to earn his masters degree from the California Institute of the Arts. He studied with film composer, Leonard Rosenman. At the same time, he studied with Mel Powell, a famous jazz pianist-composer who gave everything up to write concert music and to teach in college.
“Mel Powell was the best teacher I've ever had,” Robert said. “His teaching changed his students' lives in profound ways. One day I was talking with Leonard Rosenman and when he complained about how bad the film industry was, I asked him what he would have rather done. Without even thinking he replied, ‘I would teach music in college.’ At that point in my life, I had heartfelt advice from Leonard Rosenman and a living role model in the guise of Mel Powell. I became a music teacher.”
To ensure a secure career in teaching music, Robert later completed his doctorate in musical composition at Washington University in St. Louis.
Robert began this year by releasing a new CD of songs he has composed, Music for Flutes and Guitar, Leslie Marrs, Flute, Robert Trent, Guitar. A few years ago he received an e-mail from the flutist on his CD, Leslie Marrs. Marrs was a doctoral student in flute. She had attended a summer flute workshop in New York, and the teacher recommended that she learn Robert’s bass flute piece, Hymntunes IV. She asked Robert for a copy of the piece and any other flute music he had written. Since he has written quite a few flute pieces, he sent her a rather large package. When she performed her doctoral recital, about half the recital was Robert’s music.
“She sent me a recording of the recital and I was very impressed with her playing,” Robert said. “I thought it was good enough to release on a CD, except for the babies crying, lawnmower, etc. in the background. She did a recording session with no babies present and that's what's on the CD. Leslie is a fantastic player, and I'm very fortunate that she is willing to play my music.”
The CD is available from the Web retailer, Digstation. Here, individual tracks or the whole album can be downloaded.
Many of Robert’s students describe his teaching style as unique in that he combines the theoretical with the practical, because in music, it matters more what it sounds like than how one thinks about it.
Robert says that he loves his job, because it is also his hobby, especially while studying the music of his favorite composers, Igor Stravinsky and John Adams. When he is not busy with music, he enjoys cooking, oil painting and reading. He also likes to travel.
“I have been to Western Europe and many places in the United States,” he says, “I've never been to Switzerland, which is where my family's from. It would be worth a visit.”
Robert recollects a few of his favorite moments over the past 19 years he has been at Southeast: “I loved watching and hearing the University orchestra come back to life after almost ceasing to exist. I was fortunate to hear the Golden Eagles Marching Band play at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 1999, and was happy for their opportunity to return this year. I enjoy teaching classes, especially “The Age of Modernism,” but most of all I like working with students and faculty to perform my music.”
Robert passes the following advice along to his students: “Find out who you really
are and find a way to fulfill that identity. Many of us think that we are like, or
want to be like, famous people, movie stars etc. It's better to discover what's unique
within you and to work on fulfilling that uniqueness. This is maybe a little easier
if you are in the arts, since artists are in the business of expressing themselves.”