Jeremy Freer, MM ’10
Job: Associate Director, Green Machine Ensembles
The Green Machine is impossible to miss, a monster ensemble with students playing instruments ranging from trumpet and guitar to viola and even harp. Less conspicuous is Jeremy Freer, MM ’10. As associate director of the pep band, he’s been known to wear a green and gold helmet when he leads the ensemble. The helmet might disguise his face—but it can’t hide his talent.
FAVOR FOR A FRIEND: Freer had been teaching band at five elementary schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, when his friend, Michael “Doc Nix” Nickens, got the call to be director of the Green Machine Ensembles. “I knew he would need help with the admin side [and] with some of the artistic side,” Freer says. He started out on a volunteer basis, doing everything from writing the music charts to creating the Green Machine’s website. He earned his master’s degree and transitioned to a part-time position before becoming associate director in 2011. “Honestly, I never thought I’d be working in higher education. I just wanted to help my friend.”
THE ENSEMBLE THAT IS AN ARMY: When Freer first came on board, the Green Machine comprised about 25 students who kept the whole thing going. Membership now tops 200, and it’s a community that Freer is proud to be a part of. “I’ve put things in place,” he says. “It was [just] me for a while…but it’s not me anymore: It’s like an army—an army of positive, wonderful people, of just outstanding team players who always want to leave things better than they found them.”
MASTERING HIS DOMAIN: Freer started his path in music in the eighth grade, and the trumpet was his instrument—but arranging the music for the Green Machine means understanding the nature of the many instruments that make up the pep band’s unique sound. He credits his education in music theory and years of applied experience, saying, “I have to learn how to play all the instruments, I have to learn how they sound and where the best parts in their ranges are—and look at what their performance capabilities and limitations are—it’s all kind of an application of [my] music education.”
NAME THAT TUNE: These days, students do much of the arranging of the Green Machine’s music, but Freer still has a hand in choosing the songs. “There’s two real categories of songs that I consider for the Green Machine, one being what’s hot right now—what’s everybody really excited about,” he says. “And then there’s the ones that you can use any time, [the ones that are] timeless.”
WHAT’S WITH THE HELMET?: Freer says he’s happy to stay in the background. “I wanted to be the guy that you’d never know is there, but the one that’s making everything work.” And so that brings us back to the helmet. “I am very focused on the band,” he says, “[but] I hate being in front of the camera—that’s why I made that mask.” But just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean Freer is immune to the effect that the Green Machine has on the audience and its student members. “I still find myself smiling behind it, even though you can’t see my face.”
Jeremy Freer’s Top 5
Songs he’d like the Green Machine to perform in the future
“Just a Girl”—No Doubt
“Come on Eileen”—Dexys Midnight Runners
“Purple Haze”—Jimi Hendrix
“Semi-Charmed Life”—Third Eye Blind
“Symphony of Psalms: I. Exaudi orationem meam, Domine”—Igor Stravinsky
Favorite Green Machine Moments
- When we played for high school prospect students in Charleston, and New York who got to play with us. Song of the moment was an original song by a Green Machine student composer, Andrew Velez, called “Lose Yourself.”
- Playing their hit, “You Look Good,” with Lady Antebellum at Jiffy Lube Live in summer 2017
- The first Green Machine trip to support Mason Athletics at a fall basketball tournament—it was in Orlando, Florida, and song of the moment was “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotei
- Playing “Jump!” by Van Halen on the course of one of the marathons that we’ve performed at over the years in Washington, D.C.
- Sending off the seniors at the senior basketball game each year with a performance of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” by Boyz II Men.
Favorite Songs the Green Machine Has Performed
- “Happy (Remix)”—Pharrell
- “Party Rock Anthem”—LMFAO
- “Lose Myself (original)”—Andrew Velez
- “Tecmo Bowl Medley”—xxx
- “It’s on Again/Please Don’t Stop the Music”—Alicia Keys/Rihanna
Nine Truths and Three Lies
Freer has put together a playlist of songs he wants the Green Machine to play…with a few hidden fake picks in the list. Can you tell which is which?