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Finding the Beat

Noel Freeman’s musical odyssey has had an impact in Houston.

Noel Freeman (Facebook)


Ever since he was a little boy growing up in Southern California, Noel Freeman, OutSmart magazine’s Favorite Local LGBTQ Musician, was interested in music. He began playing the euphonium in seventh grade. During his freshman year in high school, he switched to trombone. Now, at 46, he wants to pass his love for music on to others.

“I started out as a euphonium player, and the day before winter break in freshman year of high school, my band director handed me a trombone and told me I needed to know how to play it when I got back to school three weeks later,” says Freeman. “In my many years of playing, I have had the opportunity for formal study with some great trombonists, including David Wilborn, David White, Ryan Rongone, Ben Osborne, and John McCroskey.”

Freeman says he is still primarily a trombonist, which includes tenor, bass, and alto trombone. He has doubled on other instruments like the French horn and the euphonium, as well as composed, arranged, and published music of his own.

“There are so many musical moments I remember with fondness,” he says. “Being a musician is new and exciting every day. Playing trombone in the Tournament of Roses Honor Band, playing the solo from Bolero in a concert (trombonists know how terrifying that is), hearing one of my arrangements performed live for the first time, composing my first original work for orchestra, and most recently I worked a deal to be the publisher of legendary trombonist Phil Wilson’s famous Wizard of Oz Suite for big band.”

Freeman currently plays in the Conroe Symphony Orchestra, the Sam Houston State University Jazz Lab Band, and the Houston Pride Band, which he credits for inspiring him musically after a long hiatus pursuing other goals.

“Sometimes life gets in the way of those [musical] hopes and dreams, and that happened to me.  I put my horn away for a long time while I pursued a non-musical career. It was joining the Houston Pride Band that got me excited about music again,” he says. “A few years ago, I realized that life really is too short to give up on hopes and dreams, so I finally got around to pursuing the music degree I should have gotten 25 years ago. I don’t think that would have happened were it not for Houston’s LGBTQ+ community.”

Freeman originally arrived in Texas via a career in the US Air Force and was a student at Texas A&M. He started dating his now-husband, Brad Pritchett, while in school, and that’s when he began enjoying regular visits to Houston. The couple now lives in the Heights, a neighborhood Freeman appreciates for its convenience and diversity.

“There are many LGBTQ+ people in the Heights, so we can always feel at home and comfortable being out and proud. It’s a nice, quiet neighborhood with many great things to do within walking distance, and we feel safe and welcomed when flying a Pride flag in front of the house,” he says.

Freeman was able to find his musical tribe and has some advice for other musicians who may be looking for theirs: “Make music anywhere you can, whether it’s in a community ensemble, church services, garage band, or whatever group you can put together,” he says. “You don’t have to be in a big group to play—go put on a mini-concert with some friends in a park or entertain your neighbors from your front porch. I also recommend any Houston-area musician tap into the great network that comes with being a member of the Houston Professional Musicians Association, AFM Local 65-699.”

Freeman also recommends those who may be picking up an instrument for the first time to consider Houston Community College or Lone Star College. Freeman says community colleges are the best deal in town for private instrumental instruction.

“Above all else, Freeman says,”I just want to play good music with good musicians, but I also want to keep composing and arranging to expand my portfolio and grow my publishing business. I plan to pursue a master’s degree in music so I can teach students and do my part to give them musical opportunities I never had when I was a young musician.”

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at
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