Composer-Conductor to Direct CSU's Schwob School of Music

COLUMBUS, Ga. – An accomplished composer and conductor has been chosen as the next director of the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University, CSU officials announced Tuesday.

FredFred Cohen, a professor of music and past department chair at Montclair State University in New Jersey, will assume the position July 1, leading the 20 faculty and about 200 students in the school that’s housed within the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts on CSU’s downtown RiverPark campus.

“The Schwob school is the kind of school I want to be involved with,” Cohen said. “It has a distinguished history, it’s an institution that’s already going places, and it’s a place where there’s tremendous potential for growth. Plus, Columbus offers the level of support on campus and in the community necessary to move the school to the next level.”

Cohen has served as chair of music departments at Montclair (2002-2005) and the University of Richmond (1996-2001). He came to Richmond after completing his Doctor of Musical Arts at Cornell University in 1987, and he also earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1980.

He has served as conductor or guest conductor of the Richmond Symphony, University of Richmond Orchestra, the Richmond Intercollegiate Orchestra and several other ensembles. An accomplished composer, he recently enjoyed premieres of his compositions by the Borromeo String Quartet, flutist Susan Palma and the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet. In 2006, he won two fellowships in support of his work as a composer.

“It seems like he immediately gained the respect of the faculty for his accomplishments in music as a theorist and composer,” said Pat McHenry, interim dean of CSU’s College of Arts and Letters and chair of the nine-member search committee. “We’re delighted to welcome Dr. Cohen to the faculty and administration.”

Cohen’s hiring will offer relief to Earl Coleman, who’s been juggling the job of interim director of the Schwob school along with his duties as associate dean for the fine and performing arts and William and Isabelle Curry Eminent Professor of Voice. Coleman, who oversees the academic component of CSU’s RiverPark campus as associate dean, has served as interim director of the Schwob school since the mid-2006 departure of Laurence Kaptain.

A San Francisco native, Cohen’s formal musical training began with his participation in the San Francisco Boys Chorus, which features performers ages 8-15. He also learned to play both piano and bassoon as a teen.

Today, he’s comfortable using a computer along with the piano as a composition tool. At the University of Richmond, one of his first administrative responsibilities was directing the music department’s Music Technology Lab. At Montclair, he teaches courses in audio technology along with more traditional classes in composition, music theory and instrumental literature.

“Everything about music is changing,” he said. “The whole notion of what music is, the access to it, the mechanics of it, the process of its use – it’s important for schools of music to teach students how to deal with this. I sense that the School of Music at Columbus is ready to do that.”

Cohen says his style of leadership is collaborative, and he looks forward to “beginning an in-depth series of conversations” with faculty on the direction of music and the school.

“The thing that’s exciting about the Schwob School of Music is its potential,” he said. “It’s small enough to offer students the personal contact other schools can’t and is fortunate in its geographic and financial situations, allowing students access to world-class artists. That’s essential for musicians -- to have contact with and first-hand knowledge of the best.”

Cohen and his wife, Judith, a special education teacher and violist, have three daughters, including one who’s a student at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. When he’s not busy with his music or administrative duties, Cohen enjoys hiking, biking, gardening and other outdoor activities.