Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

Music lover makes the beat go on

Cornelia Freeman

Cornelia Freeman

By Jackie

Cornelia Freeman sang “Happy Birthday” on a high note. This long- time supporter of the musical arts in Columbia wanted to do something special for the 90th birthday of her husband, businessman R.E.L. Freeman. She funded an entire concert of the S.C. Philharmonic. Everyone in the Koger Center joined in the celebration.

“When we saw the Philharmonic calendar for the coming year, we saw the April 21, 2001, concert would be on his 90th birthday. So we said, instead of having a party, we would pay for the concert, and everyone at the Koger would be at his party.

“As it turned out, the evening became a memorial to him. He died a few months before that birthday, on November 24, 2000.

“That’s the only time I bought an entire concert, but I have been involved in supporting music and especially music scholarships for my entire lifetime in Columbia,” said Freeman.

Those who have known Freeman for many decades can attest the Columbia music scene is much the richer for her leadership. After graduating from Columbia College, where she won a medal for her piano recital performance, Freeman taught piano lessons.

The Federation of Music Clubs claimed her services over many years. At the local, state, and national levels, she served in high offices and was on the National Board for 21 years. She also has been president of the Symphony League in Columbia.

“I think one of my traits over the years must have been not knowing how to say No. When something was asked of me, I usually thought, ‘Well, maybe I can get that done.'”

Her national affiliation led to her traveling all over the U.S. speaking at conventions and meetings. Freeman took a few trips abroad, where she appeared at conventions in what was then Czechoslovakia, and Germany and Poland. Also, Freeman and her husband Robert were sent by Mayor John Campbell on a trade mission to Taiwan.

Freeman’s name is attached to the respected September Series of concerts at USC. She was discussing with John Adams of the music faculty what sort of scholarship she could endow at the University. His reply was the September series (recitals every Sunday afternoon each September) was not bringing in enough in ticket sales to do much more than cover the performance costs. If she would fund the expenses of the programs, all the ticket money could be dedicated to scholarships. Now, every September Sunday afternoon, music lovers can attend the Cornelia Freeman Music Series. And scholarship money has grown substantially.

“Our music club used to put on music/garden tours,” she said. “Musicians would play in the various homes or gardens open for the tour as fundraisers for scholarships. Now, three large clubs in Columbia: the Afternoon Music Club, the Eau Claire Club, and the Morning Music Club join forces to present a fashion show put on by a local clothing store and some program music from scholarship winners.”

Freeman, 95, lives at Still Hopes in West Columbia where she recently modeled in a fashion show.

“My mother lived to be 107,” Freeman said. “She taught me inspiration and perseverance, among other things.”

The Freemans had four children, six grandchildren, and three great grands. One granddaughter, Erin Rebecca Freeman, holds music degrees in voice performance and a doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from Peabody in Baltimore. Beginning next fall, she will be associate conductor of the Richmond (VA) Symphony, having obtained her doctorate at Peabody Music Conservatory in Baltimore.

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