Executive Director of The Jackson Symphony
Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography by Woody Woodard.
Sherry P. Freeman, a native of Bradford, Tennessee, holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Union University; a Masters of Education in Administration/Supervision from Middle Tennessee State University; an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Union University and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Union University.
She taught in public education for 25 years in Rutherford County Schools and in Jackson-Madison County Schools. In addition, she taught at Lambuth University for six years.
Ms. Freeman has been a Jackson resident for 25 years. She is the wife of Kent Freeman, owner of J. Kent Freeman Floral Design & Gift Co., and they have two children: Patterson Freeman, who with his wife, Kaitlin, have a two-year-old son, Bo Freeman; and Frances McCullough, who married Troy McCullough, and they have a four-month-old son, Reid McCullough.
Ms. Freeman’s hobbies are cooking, entertaining and reading.
VIP: Recently you were named Executive Director of The Jackson Symphony. Describe your first days at the office.
Sherry Freeman: I came in the middle of the season after the season had started. My first day of work was November 1. I went straight into concert weekend, so it has been a whirlwind coming on board, but it’s been good. I have a lot to learn daily.
VIP: You have a background in education. What appealed to you about the position of Executive Director of The Jackson Symphony (JSO)? Are you a longtime JSO subscriber/concert attendee?
SF: After 30-plus years in education, I decided that I could change professions, retire with one and move to the other. (For the past 7 years I have worked in Federal programs as a Title I Consultant. Currently I work with 5 schools within the Jackson-Madison County System. I have been in the field of education for around 32 years, and I have a doctorate in education.) The appeal of the position with the symphony is that I believe that the arts are important to a stable and progressive community. People should be exposed to the arts. We have a craving for the arts whether it is music, theatre, dance or drama. Kent and I have been supporters of The Jackson Symphony since we moved to Jackson over 25 years ago.
VIP: What skills from your most recent job carry over to your new job?
SF: Working with people. Each school has its own individual sets of personalities and needs. The same thing applies with The Jackson Symphony, which has patrons, sponsors, members of the orchestra and office personnel. The Symphony Executive Director must have the ability to transition between people and address their immediate needs. In education we are in the business of serving our customers—the community at large and parents. In The Jackson Symphony my focus is to sell our product to the community. I am in the service industry within the school system and The Jackson Symphony. My work with schools is meant to improve the lives of the students and the families that we serve. My work at The Jackson Symphony is to improve the community within the greater Madison County community.
VIP: How many people are on staff at the Jackson Symphony office?
SF: We have nine employees. Currently, outside of Peter Shannon, our Musical Director & Conductor, we have two fulltime employees—Caitlin Roach, Director of Marketing and Patron Development, and Greg Hines, Director of Artistic Operations. Tommy Rhoads is our part-time Office Manager. Other employees include Mark Simmons, Associate Conductor; Grace Shaw, Director of Community Engagement and Symphonia conductor; James Weil, Youth Orchestra Conductor; and Elise Dougan, Camerata Conductor.
VIP: What are The Jackson Symphony Orchestra goals for 2019?
SF: Obviously the main goal is to follow our mission statement. Our goals may be found in our mission statement: to increase audience and patron participation. We want to fill up the halls, whether it is a classical concert at First Baptist Church, a chamber music concert at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, or the pops concerts at the Jackson Civic Center. Another goal is to continue to engage the West Tennessee area with our high quality music. Obviously we want to increase our patron, sponsor and donor bases and make sure that at all times we are providing outstanding service to our patrons. We really desire to reach out to a new, younger patron generation. The Jackson Symphony is not just for a certain group of people. It should have a wide range of audience support.
We are very aware that people have choices with their time and finances. If we receive your time and finances we want you to know how much we appreciate it.
The Program Committee is looking at ways we can increase our audience by getting great exposure. For the last two years we have been performing at the Soybean Festival in Martin. We want to begin to branch out to the Greater West Tennessee area. (The orchestra is a combination of local and out-of-town musicians.)
VIP: How often do you meet with Peter Shannon, the conductor of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra? He lives in Savannah, Georgia.
SF: Peter is in Jackson about once a month or sometimes more often during the concert season.
VIP: Do the Symphony board and the conductor make the decisions about programming? Have you finalized the next season?
SF: Peter, a programming committee and I are working with the Symphony board. We are in the process of beginning to put the final touches and details on next year’s season.
VIP: Tell me about your family.
SF: My husband, Kent, is the owner of J. Kent Freeman Floral Design & Gift Co. He is a native of Tupelo, Mississippi. We have two grown children: Patterson and his wife, Kaitlin, who live in Bradford. Patterson manages Volunteer Angus Farms for Mike and Mary Jane McWherter, and he works with my father at BoPat Farm in Bradford. They have a two-year-old, Bo. Our daughter, Frances, and her husband, Troy McCullough, live in Jackson, Mississippi. We have a five-month-old grandson, Reid.
VIP: Describe an ideal day.
SF: On an ideal casual day I love to get up, get the kitchen going and spend the day cooking. At night, we enjoy having friends or family over and sit around and visit and enjoy each others’ company. I love the days in the kitchen. I love the opportunity to prepare something for other people and sit back and enjoy them and what I’ve done and enjoy our time together.
VIP: Do you enjoy travel? If so, do you have special destinations you enjoy visiting, and what travel destinations are on your wish list?
SF: Kent and I like to travel when possible. Our favorite place is New Orleans. We love New Orleans! We just got back from a trip there after I learned about my new job. We like to drive to New Orleans. We like to leave early in the morning so we’re there in time for lunch. We go to eat, relax and enjoy the city. We hope to do more travel. We put together what we call a 5 and 5 Travel Wish List: 5 places we have not seen in the U.S. This summer we plan to visit Seattle and the coast of Oregon. Outside the U.S. we would like to visit Rome. Hopefully we can make more time in the future to travel.
What to Know
The Jackson Symphony Orchestra
207 E. Lafayette Street, Jackson, TN 38301