Richard Cooke – CIA, Chief in Artistry
Conformity was never in the plans for Richard Cooke. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, he studied music through voice, piano and trumpet, but an organized band was not his calling. He went on to attend Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where the improvisation of blues and jazz re-ignited his musical fire. The freedom of improvising and teaching himself to play new instruments by ear set Richard on a happily rambling road of adventure, musical expression and creation.
Armed with only a 10-speed bicycle, a contrabass clarinet he picked up at a pawnshop, and an unabashed enthusiasm for the vagabond lifestyle, Richard found his way to a retreat by the famed Paul Winter of the Consort jazz ensemble. Though he had not yet played his “new” clarinet, Richard let his ear and soul guide through an experimental session. There was a joy to playing when he had no expectations of himself. He overcame the constraints of self-consciousness and reveled in the freedom of spontaneous music making.
That is where the seed for Freenotes was planted. Richard eventually traded in his 10-speed for an old Volkswagen van and moved to the otherworldly landscape of Moab, Utah. In Moab, he focused his abundant energy on building instruments that would make music accessible to novices and seasoned musicians alike. Though he was blessed with talent, his mission was to bring an experiential component to music wherein anyone could step up to an instrument and play.
Richard continues to play music professionally, including collaborating with Paul Winter on the 2007 Grammy Award-winning Crestone album. His artist’s soul and wandering spirit underscore his dedication to building his instruments. It is out in the wilderness where he finds inspiration. But it is long, focused hours in the shop where he hones each prototype until it balances the appeal, the durability and the perfect pitch that will earn the name Freenotes