Richard Cooke’s early musical experiences were highlighted by his learning to play the flute in college. Richard found his way to a retreat by the famed Paul Winter of the Consort Jazz ensemble. There he was invited to join the Consort and begin his exploration of instrument design. A few years later the first Freenotes Xylophone was prototyped, and positive feedback spurred his hopes and desires to launch a company.
Constant experimentation informs all Freenotes designs. That initial design led to a plethora of subsequent off-shoots. Intellectual curiosity and drive have produced close to a hundred different instrument designs over time. All these instruments are made to be intuitive. No special skill or talent is needed to create beautiful music.
Early on in Freenotes history Richard moved to Moab, Utah. Because of an excellent relationship with that town Richard was invited to design outdoor musical instruments for a local Rotary Park. That park has perhaps the largest and earliest collection of instruments for public use. Outdoor instruments are an important chapter in the history of Freenotes Company.
Another significant project and undertaking of Freenotes Company was working on a restoration of Lou Harrison’s American Gamelan instruments. Lou Harrison was a prominent American composer and creator of musical instruments. His designs and compositions were written for just intonation rather than equal temperament. As such, custom instruments are required to play his creations. Lou’s original instruments were wearing out and Lou asked Richard to recreate the instruments. Later Richard was asked to reproduce these designs for historical preservation and continued use by symphony orchestras.
Freenotes Company moved to Durango, CO in 2002. Shortly thereafter Robert Cooke, Richard’s nephew, moved to Durango to join the team and begin learning the secrets of design and manufacturing.
In the early 2000s playground instruments were starting to trend. Freenotes Company was producing and selling them on a small scale. The success of those sales gave Freenotes the confidence to launch a separate company: Freenotes Harmony Park. FHP is an industry leader in outdoor instruments. There were many technological and material advancements made. Outdoor instruments must be extremely durable to withstand the elements and public use.
In 2015 FHP was sold to Playcore. They continue to sell and design new and wonderful products. Richard consults for them in their pursuit of excellence.
With the sale Richard and Robert have returned to designing and selling indoor instruments. This is where we find ourselves today. We look forward to continuing our life’s journey in this fascinating field.