Freeman George Koberstein (1914-1988)
Freeman George Koberstein was a renowned pianist and music educator. Born in Glenwood City, Wisconsin on April 1, 1914, he earned two degrees from the University of Minnesota. He then secured a fellowship to the prestigious Juilliard Graduate School, where he was tutored by noted pianist Madame Olga Samaroff-Stokowaki. A natural teacher and gifted musician, Koberstein worked as a private piano instructor while receiving invitations to perform with various symphonies.
Koberstein enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1942. Two and a half years later, he narrowly escaped capture by German Forces during the Battle of the Bulge. While stationed in Belgium, he helped organize a series of charity concerts, the proceeds from which were used to relocate to Switzerland the children of political prisoners. Koberstein used his extraordinary musical talent to entertain Allied troops in officers’ clubs and at public performances in Germany and Belgium. Most notably, Elisabeth, the Belgian Queen Mother, invited him to appear as a soloist with the Orchestra de la Chapella de la Reine (the Queen’s Chapel Orchestra). Following the end of hostilities, Koberstein was transferred to the MFAA in Germany, where he served alongside Monuments Man Maj. Lewis S. Williams in Kassel. The Monuments Men Foundation is very interested in learning more about Koberstein’s service with the MFAA. If you have any information, please contact .
Upon his return to the United States in December 1945, Koberstein worked briefly as a music instructor at the University of Minnesota. In 1946 he was appointed Assistant Professor of Pianoforte at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio, where he gave frequent performances at the college’s Warner Concert Hall and became Chairman of the piano department, the Conservatory Library Committee, and the Conservatory Admissions Committee. In addition, he was a member of the Conservatory Educational Policy Committee and President of the Theta Chapter of the national musical fraternity, Pi Kappa Lamba. In 1961 Koberstein took a leave of absence to study privately at the Royal Academy of Music in London under renowned pianist Harold Craxton.
Freeman Koberstein died in St. Paul, Minnesota on December 14, 1988. Today, his musical legacy lives on through hundreds of students, many of whom are musicians and music educators at some of the most notable musical ensembles in the United States.
Photo courtesy of Oberlin College Archives.