All posts in “Singing”

Worship leader roundtable

Back in March, just before the world changed, we gathered First Free’s musical worship leaders for a wide-ranging conversation. Renee Cooper (Classic), Nathan Fry (Contemporary) and Nathan McDonald (Chapel) spoke with Jim Killam about generational preferences, how they choose worship music and how they plan and coordinate our weekend services. Read More

Patriotic Celebration marks 50th milestone

Our annual Patriotic Celebration received more buzz than ever this year as we celebrated 50 years of honoring our military heroes and thanking God for the true freedom we have in Jesus Christ.

To help recognize the big milestone, we invited all former choir and orchestra directors back for the celebration. We’ve had six directors in total during that time:

  • Bruce Erickson (1970-1983)
  • Otis Skillings (1984-1989)
  • Doug Thiesen (1990-1998)
  • Renee Cooper (1999 to 2001)
  • Kristyn Thor (2002)
  • Eric Walker (2003-2007)
  • Renee Cooper (2008 to present)

Renee Cooper, who serves as our classic worship director, was our director again this year and is the longest-serving director in the group. Bruce Erickson, our first director, attended this year’s festivities, and a few others were unable to attend but did send us videos sharing wonderful memories of the event.

According to Bruce, Patriotic Celebration started in 1970 as a way to bring together a divided country/community during the Vietnam War. It was a positive offering and initially took place at the Sinnissippi Park Music Shell – sometimes after the Fourth of July and sometimes in June. The celebration began with one night, was eventually expanded to three nights, and then scheduled for two nights once it moved to the current First Free Rockford main campus.

In addition to special outreach for past directors, we also invited all former choir and orchestra participants to celebrate with us this year. We had people join us from many states, including Texas, Florida, Michigan and South Carolina. More than 200 volunteers total helped organize and participated in the event, and over 2,100 people attended the celebration performances.

The color guards from the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department and the Rockford Police Department presented the colors both nights, and our procession of veterans was once again a highlight for the crowd. A freewill offering collected during the program are being divided between three local veterans’ nonprofits: The Veteran’s Drop-in Center, the Oscar Mike Foundation and Brightening Veteran’s Lives (Vietnam Veterans of America – Chapter 984 Rockford).

Community Choir Festival 2019

Register Now


First Free Rockford is once again hosting a Community Choir Festival with Dr. Gary Bonner. If you like to sing, then this is for you! On Friday and Saturday, February 22 and 23, singers from all around the region will come together in one mighty chorus, and we want you to join us! Rehearsals are Friday evening 7:00–9:30 p.m. and Saturday 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. Then on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. there will be a free Community Choir Concert.


Don’t miss the thrill of being a part of this large community choir made up of singers of all ages from all over the mid-west. We will sing, laugh, and learn together. The weekend culminates with a free concert for our community.

For Singers of all levels and musical talents. Everyone learns something!


If you are looking to infuse joy, energy, and passion into your music program, then this is a weekend that you and your singers simply shouldn’t miss!


REGISTER NOW!Lunch on Saturday is included in registration fees below.

EARLY BIRD RATE – thru Nov 30, 2018
$25 – Adults
$15 – Students (for Student Pricing -use Promo code CCF2019)

REGULAR RATEbeginning Dec 1, 2018
$30 – Adults
$20 – Students (for Student Pricing -use Promo code CCF2019)

If you have questions, please call Renee at 815-877-7046 or email her.


Videos from Last Year


Dr Bonner

Chorale Workshop



REGISTRATION BEGINS DECEMBER 1, 2016 Deadline to register is February 1, 2017

  • Early Bird Discount (if paid by Jan. 1, 2017): $5 off per singer
  • Regular Registration Fee (after Jan. 1, 2017): $30 Adult singers / $20 Students
  • Group Rate Groups of 10+ call for additional discount information!


Friday and Saturday Feb 10th – 11th:

  • Friday Rehearsal 7:00pm – 9:30pm
  • Saturday Rehearsal 9:00am. – 3:00pm (Lunch Provided)
  • Saturday Community Choir Concert 6:00pm FREE ADMISSION


Bonners 2016
Dr. Gary Bonner is an internationally recognized conductor and trainer of conductors. He has what is described as an “intangible magic” when it comes to creating choral music, a sound and experience that is related to the connection between the conductor, performers, and audience, creating an elusive, yet identifiable, quality which makes a performance come alive.  Dr. Bonner is in great demand as a teacher of both choir directors and singers. He has trained over 700 conductors in his intensive week-long conducting seminars and touched thousands in his weekend choir workshops which have been offered across the United States and Canada. In addition, Dr. Bonner has been regularly invited to offer workshops at major music conferences such as MusiCalifornia, Music Northwest, Christian Artists at Estes Park Colorado, Gospel Music Conference in Nashville, Music Minnesota, Hosanna Music Conference, Music Iowa, Spartanburg, Ridgecrest, Glorietta, Metro Music, and the National Church Music Conference.  His philosophy that music is for the masses, not just a select few, permeates his emphasis on communication and relationship through music.  Dr. Bonner and his wife Pat have been active in Christian ministry through music and teaching for the 55 years of their marriage.  It is our privilege to welcome Dr. Bonner back to First Free Rockford for another exciting Choir Workshop.


For further information contact:

Renee Cooper
Renee Cooper
Classic Worship Director
(815) 877-7046 x 6714