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Freeman, Betty (née Wishnick)

Freeman, Betty (née Wishnick)

Freeman, Betty (née Wishnick), American music patron, photographer, and record producer; b. Chicago, June 2, 1921. She studied music, piano, and English literature at Wellesley Coll. (B.A., 1942); later took piano lessons with Johanna Harris at the Juilliard School of Music in N.Y and at the New England Cons, of Music in Boston. She also studied privately in N.Y. with Erich Itor Kahn (harmony) and Beveridge Webster (piano) and in Los Angeles with Victoria Front and Joanna Graudan. After moving to Los Angeles in 1950, she began collecting American avant-garde art. In 1960 she became a founding member of the Contemporary Art Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In the 1960s she completed books on Clyfford Still and Sam Francis. From 1964 to 1973 she was one of the leaders of the music program “Encounters” at the Pasadena Art Museum. During this time, she became the patron and promoter of the uniquely original composer Harry Partch, who became the subject of her prize- winning documentary film The Dreamer That Remains (1972). She also began still photography, studying with Ansel Adams, Cole Weston, Fred Picker and others, her subjects being largely the American composers and performing artists who were also her beneficiaries. Her premiere photo exhibit took place at the Otis-Parsons Gallery in Los Angeles in 1985; other shows followed in Milan (1987), the Los Angeles Phil. (1988), the Brooklyn Academy of Music (1988), the Univ. of Calif, at Irvine (1989), the Berlin Phil. (1990), four locations throughout Japan (1990), the Cologne Phil. (1991,1997), Ace Gallery in Los Angeles (1991), Ferrara, Italy (1991), the Eastman School of Music (1991), the Univ. of Calif, at San Diego (1992, 1999), the Salzburg Festival (1992), the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels (1993), the Ojai Festival (1993), Budapest (1993), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1993–95), the Univ. of Calif, at San Diego (1995), La Fenice Theatre, Venice (1995), Royal Festival Hall in London (1996), N.Y/s Lincoln Center (1996, 1997), Helsinki (1996), the Univ. of Calif, at Berkeley (1996), Cite de la musique in Paris (1997), the Frankfurt am Main Oper (1997), the Deutsche Oper, Berlin (1998), London’s Barbican Centre (1998), Dartington International Summer School (1999), the Hollywood Bowl (1999), the qai Music Festival (2000), and the Nord Deutsche Rundfunk in Hamburg (2000). From 1981 to 1991 she presented monthly musicales of contemporary composers at her home in Beverly Hills with the music critic Alan Rich. From the 1960s she was an active supporter of West Coast composers, including Robert Erickson, Paul Dresher, Morton Subomick, Terry Riley, Lou Harrison, Dane Rudhyar, Peter Garland, Daniel Lentz, and John Adams. In addition, she supported the work of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, La Monte Young, John Cage, Virgil Thomson, Conlon Nancarrow, Christopher Rouse, and Steven Mackey. Later her support extended to Europe, particularly to the composers Birtwistle, Lutowstawski, George Benjamin, György Ligeti, and György Kurtag, and to the Salzburg Festival. She served twice on the Inter-Arts Panel of the NEA (1983–84), and received the Cunningham Dance Foundation award for “distinguished support of the arts” (1984). She further received an award from the American Music Center (1986) and the Gold Baton from the American Sym. Orch. League (1987). She has great admirers in the artists she supports; she was the dedicatee of John Cage’s Freeman Etudes (1977) and John Adams’s Nixon in China (1987). From 1989 to 1994 she served on the board of directors of the Los Angeles Phil. She was married to Stanley Freeman with whom she busily produced 4 children in 6 years. Divorced in 1971, she married the Italian artist Franco Assetto, with whom she divided her time between Turin and Los Angeles until his death. Her belief in and support of contemporary music resulted from her firm belief that “music written since 1950 is infinitely more compelling and convincing than anything written during the 19th century with, of course, the exceptions of Beethoven and Schubert.”

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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