Freeport Orchestra Program History 1864-present


The Freeport High School Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestra programs in the United States.  In the Civil War days of 1861, Frances Augusta Rosebrugh, originally from New York, was hired to teach mathematics for Freeport schools.  In 1864, she was asked to form an orchestra to perform for plays, operettas, and commencement exercises. Rosebrugh was an enthusiastic music lover, who played the piano well enough to play with the ensemble.  Her first orchestra consisted of 2 violins, 1 cornet, 1 clarinet, and 1 pianist.  H. Harold Hewitt replaced Rosebrugh as director of the orchestra program in 1900 and served until 1905.  Hewitt began with an orchestra of 11 members, all boys, and he played the piano and cello parts himself.  Minnie Davis filled the position of High School music teacher until poor health brought her resignation in 1912.  During this period, several people are credited with directing the group, including Professor Arnston and former students Edwin Rotzler, Dwight Riner, and Merle Smith.  Riner was the first to allow girls into the program.  In 1912, Marie Asquith acquired the orchestra position and directed until 1914, when Jessie M. Grossman led the ensemble for one year.  Lucius Hiatt, founder of the High School Band, followed Grossman, adding the responsibilities of orchestra director to his band position until 1924.  Hiatt was replaced by Karl Kubitz, who added a grade school program and doubled the string section from 15 to 30 members by the time he handed the baton to former student, Ernest Seeman.  In 1940, Seeman joined the Freeport public schools and assisted Kubitz with the orchestras in addition to teaching strings to younger students.  In 1950, Seeman took sole control of the program until he was joined by another FHSO alumnus, Myron McLain, in 1968.  Kubitz remained Supervisor of Music for the district and high school band director until his resignation in 1959.  After Seeman’s retirement in 1976, McLain remained with the orchestra until 1985.  Timothy Parsons assisted McLain from 1979-1984.  Pamela Hayes, formerly a teacher in Chicago, was hired as the sole orchestra director in 1985.  Sheila (Kennerly) Felder took over instruction in 1987.  At this time, the enrollment included 23 strings in the high school orchestra, 23 in the junior high, and 32 in the middle school.  Felder directed the ensembles until 2001, with assistance from Dung Pham from 1994-2000.  Other directors during the past few years include FHSO alumnus Kris Williams (2001-2003), and Andrew Ladendorf (2003-2008). Currently, the program is under the direction of FHSO alumnus Brandon Lamm (2008-present) and Tracy (Klessig) Pallesen (2000-present). 
            Over the years, the Freeport Orchestra program has developed art connoisseurs, active amateurs, and professional musicians.  It has been the starting point for prominent careers in music.  Countless music educators have emerged from the orchestra as well as renowned symphonic and free-lance performers. These include, but are not limited to:   

Phyllis Adams – freelance harpist in the Chicago area, has performed with Milwaukee Symphony and Chicago Symphony, Staff Harpist and Artistic Consultant for 22 years with Venus Harps of Chicago

Mark Asher - a 1970 graduate, has BME and MME, is now a freelance cellist in the Washington D.C. area, composing and arranging 

Martha Babcock – associate principal cello of Boston Symphony Orchestra and principal cello of the Boston Pops Orchestra.  As a high school student at Freeport, Ms. Babcock was a guest artist representing Illinois High Schools with the 91-piece University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra.  The competition was open to all high school string players.  She submitted a recording of the First Movement of Haydn’s Concerto in D for cello and orchestra (18 minutes memorized).  

Harry Baker - great-grandson of the first settler of Freeport (Tutty Baker), tympani with Philadelphia and NY Philharmonic orchestras, Columbia Broadcasting Orchestra 20 years, and Dallas Symphony (Tilden, 1972, p. 581)

Gaylord Browne - instructor of violin, theory, and string ensembles at Evansville, Indiana College 

Paul Buyer – cellist and public school teacher in South Carolina

Lisa Monigold Chodorowski – violinist in Rockford Symphony, freelance violinist and violist and Suzuki teacher

Donna Doyle – currently Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music in Queens, NY.  From 1984 to 1999 she served the Manhattan School as a full-time member of its music faculty. She has had her original compositions and arrangements performed in France and the US.  Additionally, having served as President of the Fontainebleau, France, Schools of Fine Arts Alumni Association, Professor Doyle currently sits on its Board of Trustees.

Barb Ehlers – violinist and education co-chair with Dubuque Symphony Orchestra

Lance Elbeck began his study at age 10.  He performed solo with the Rockford Symphony and in recital at Curtis Hall in Chicago only three years later.  Credits also include performing as soloist with the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein.  He has been a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra NY and concertmaster of the Hamilton Philharmonic and Toronto Philharmonia Orchestra in Canada.

Ann Hendrickson Griffin – a founding member and principal cellist of Chicago Sinfonietta, principal cello for Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and Joffrey Ballet as well as many other performance ensembles and teaching

John Heiden - conducted the El Paso Civic Orchestra   

Barbara Heine Henigbaum – violinist with the Atlanta Symphony
David Kadarauch
- principal cello of the San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Opera Orchestra

Ward Moore – head of music department Montclair, NJ State College and director of various New Jersey orchestras

Spencer F. Phillips – principal bassoon Orchestra London Canada and Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra

Philip Rehfelt – music professor at the University of Redlands, California 

Faye Seeman – principal harpist of the Chicago Sinfonietta / Joffrey Ballet Orchestra, founder of Kithara flute, cello, harp trio, ZigZag Jazz Harp Quartet, and Adjunct Professor of Harp Studies at Wheaton College and Northern Illinois University
Kaethe Seeman – freelance oboist in New York

Linda Seeman Clarke
–violist in the San Luis Chamber Orchestra (CA) and former violist with Pasadena Symphony and Riverside Symphony

Bill Swift – conductor Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra

Meghann Mokros Talbot – High School Orchestra teacher and freelance harpist in Chicago area

Peggy Mayer Young – Harpist with Glacier Symphony and Billings Symphony, Montana

Robert Williams – Emeritus Professor of Music, University of Minnesota, Duluth

        At this time, just over 200 students grades 5-12 are served by this strong, historic program. Yearly, many students participate in District Festival and All-State Festival, perform for the high school musical, junior high plays, school concert series, and community orchestras and small ensembles.  It is wonderful that a community the size of Freeport can sustain such a strong orchestra program.  With prolonged support, this remarkable program will have the chance to continue to grow.  The students and directors take great pride in their history, talent, and education and thank Freeport School District #145 and the community for their strong support.

Subpages (1): Timeline 1864-2010