Ben Freed – A Loss To Bluegrass Community

Photo by Joan Harrison

“I started playing the banjo at age 15 and never stopped.”

On May 20th, Ben Freed died of a massive heart attack. He leaves behind his wife Nomi, their daughters Madelyn and Liza, and a far reaching network of musicians with whom he shared his love of the banjo and bluegrass music. He was generous with his knowledge and a highly respected instructor who mentored many of our finest young banjo players.

Ben developed a dynamically driving style, citing Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Tony Trischka and Alan Munde as major influences. Four CDs of all original music attest to his gifts as a composer, producer, and player. Pete Wernick called Ben’s Suite for Bluegrass Banjo “one of the best banjo records, ever.” Ben also played on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers film “Raising Arizona”, “The Simpsons”, and numerous commercial soundtracks.

As a member of Diamonds in the Rough, Laurie and the Locals, American Flyer, The Soy Boys, The Corn Fed Dogs, and most recently, The Sleepy Hollow String Band, Ben declared that “performing live music with my friends is an exhilaration that is hard to describe.”

Following his father into optometry, specializing in low vision, Ben worked in several hospital-based ophthalmology training programs in and around New York City, helping train medical doctors specializing in eye surgery. An interview with Ben about his work with low vision can be found at Vision Aware’s website.

Those who know Ben understand the depth of our loss. Those who don’t can discover him through his music by visiting:

CD Baby, Ben Freed
CD Baby, Sleepy Hollow String Band
Elderly, Ben Freed

Ben Freed’s memorial will be this Sat. May 23, 4:00 pm, at the Herganhan Center, 40 Maple Ave, Armonk, NY 10504

A music event will be held at a later date.
The memorial is public, no invitation necessary.

In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.


Nomi Schwartz: thanks Joan and HVBA. This is lovely. Nomi Freed.

Michael Rosenthal: Thank you Joan, a wonderful tribute to Ben.

Lynn Lipton: I agree with Michael, Joan has written a beautiful tribute to someone who has meant so much to so many!!!


2 Responses

  • Ben was my dearest friend. We spent many many nights in his room and my room in Valley Stream listening to music. He was the funniest person I knew. I think about him everyday and miss him dearly. We met in High School, were inseparable and drifted far apart after college. Luckily we reconnected much later. When we found each other it was wonderful. We again stayed tight through phone calls. Of course we meant to be together as always. I’m so sad it never happened. My dear friend I miss you.

  • Ben touched so many lives and left a legacy of love, gratitude, and joy behind. You were so lucky to be one of the people who got to know and love him for many years.

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