Erich Bussian - CEO
Erich started his journey in Boulder Colorado, where he was born in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Though his career has taken him far an wide, he has always been drawn back to his native Rockies and has lived in Durango for the past 14 years.
In his earlier career, he lived and worked around the world. His wanderlust began at a young age, when he lived in Munich in the mid 60's and attended German schools as a child. At 19 he took a year off from college and spent a year traveling around the world and has continued his global life ever since.
Erich holds a BA in History from the University of Colorado, a MSc. from the London School of Economics and a MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. He has worked for National Geographic, MapQuest, AOL and started a number of businesses.
His wife is Dutch and he has a love hate relationship with the Dutch language. When not working he spends his free time hiking, backpacking and fishing in the backcountry of Colorado, or the desert Utah. He has two children, who are now almost fully grown.
In his role as CEO, Erich takes great joy in bringing Freenotes Harmony Park's beautiful outdoor musical instruments out to the world.
Christy Cooke – President
Christy stepped in as CEO from 2010 to 2012 with an aggressive strategic plan including a restructuring of the company’s business model that would allow for a wider reach. Within a year, sales doubled. Under Christy’s leadership, sales are on-track to double for the third year in a row.
Christy is a yoga-practicing, raw-food eating, creative force with a resume replete with hard-core accolades from the nation’s big-eight accounting firms to the ski resorts of Breckenridge and Telluride Colorado. Above all else, Christy is a visionary who knows how to enact a plan.
Cooke began her career in marketing and communications in two of the nation’s largest public accounting firms, Touche Ross and Price Waterhouse. Pioneering “Practice Development” for the professional services industry during the mid-eighties had many challenges. Christy enjoyed tackling the nuances of marketing and public relations for both businesses that were cautious about promoting themselves. Having managed several major creative campaigns, the work was challenging and thought provoking, yet the lack of access to nature left a void in her professional fulfillment.
Enter Telluride, Colorado, when reorganized career goals including the additional pursuits of life balancing skiing, whitewater rafting and yoga instructing came into play. It was through a mutual friend that Christy met Richard Cooke in Moab, Utah. Teaming up with Richard in 1998 she began building the Freenotes business and the triumvirate of mind, body and creative spirit was complete.
As she learned more about the music, the tools and the vast potential of what she and Richard were creating, her vision for Freenotes came into focus.
The company is moving beyond the playground in 2012 and aggressively pursuing outdoor installations in a variety of semi-protected institutionalized settings for businesses, municipalities and the private sectors.
The ultimate legacy for Freenotes is much bigger than high sales volume. Inspired by the ease with which everyone can make beautiful music, Christy envisions a simplified way to bring music back to arts education. Underway is the development of music education materials that will ultimately lead to a Freenotes School of Music centered on improvisation and supported by instruments that everyone can play.
Richard Cooke - CIA, Chief in Artistry
Conformity was never in the plans for Richard Cooke. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, he studied music through voice, piano and trumpet, but an organized band was not his calling. He went on to attend Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where the improvisation of blues and jazz re-ignited his musical fire. The freedom of improvising and teaching himself to play new instruments by ear set Richard on a happily rambling road of adventure, musical expression and creation.
Armed with only a 10-speed bicycle, a contrabass clarinet he picked up at a pawnshop, and an unabashed enthusiasm for the vagabond lifestyle, Richard found his way to a retreat by the famed Paul Winter of the Consort jazz ensemble. Though he had not yet played his “new” clarinet, Richard let his ear and soul guide through an experimental session. There was a joy to playing when he had no expectations of himself. He overcame the constraints of self-consciousness and reveled in the freedom of spontaneous music making
That is where the seed for Freenotes was planted. Richard eventually traded in his 10-speed for an old Volkswagen van and moved to the otherworldly landscape of Moab, Utah. In Moab, he focused his abundant energy on building instruments that would make music accessible to novices and seasoned musicians alike. Though he was blessed with talent, his mission was to bring an experiential component to music wherein anyone could step up to an instrument and play.
Richard continues to play music professionally, including collaborating with Paul Winter on the 2007 Grammy Award-winning Crestone album. His artist’s soul and wandering spirit underscore his dedication to building his instruments. It is out in the wilderness where he finds inspiration. But it is long, focused hours in the shop where he hones each prototype until it balances the appeal, the durability and the perfect pitch that will earn the name Freenotes.
VP Production - Robert Cooke
Robert’s story begins in St. Louis, Missouri where he grew up. His musical experiences as a child included playing the violin and singing in his church choir. Before venturing to Colorado and learning more with Freenotes, Robert served 4 years in the US Navy aboard the USS Stethem. He worked in communications and learned about hard work, attention to detail and teamwork.
In the winter of 2003, Robert was at a family event where his uncle, Richard Cooke, planted the seed of working at Freenotes. In July, Robert decided to visit Durango and see what it was all about. He came, he stayed and has been an employee with Freenotes ever since.
Robert started working as a shop employee, where he assembled indoor and outdoor products. He enjoyed piecing together the instruments and exploring why they need to go together in a particular way. Freenotes’s instruments have a lot of simple engineering, but also require the complexities of acoustical engineering.
Robert enjoys the challenges to keep everything running smoothly. Through his leadership, Robert reinforces and strengthens the team. He handles inventory, purchasing, invoice tracking, outsourcing, shipping and our great three-man shop team. As a result, great ideas become the beautiful products you see today.