Harrison Fribush has the music in him, and he wants to share that passion with other kids throughout the Baltimore area.
A seventh grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School, Harrison has embarked on a bar mitzvah project unlike that of most of his peers. On Jan. 18, he brought middle school students from the Cardinal Shehan School, a private Catholic school located in the Loch Raven section of Baltimore, to KSDS for a day of collaboration through music.
Harrison, who becomes a bar mitzvah on March 30 at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, is also creating a video documentary of the day, with the aim of raising money for after-school music programs in Baltimore City.
“Music matters, and music education makes an impact on our lives,” said Harrison, 13, who lives in Stevenson. “I wanted to make a video to raise money because I wanted to show I could make a difference in our city.”
Harrison first tried out the drums more than three years ago while attending Camp Airy, a Jewish summer overnight camp in Thurmont. That was all he needed to spark a love of music. He started taking lessons, and for his 10th birthday his parents, Eric and Nicole Fribush, purchased a drum set for their son.
“It instantly affected him,” said Nicole Fribush. “He was able to concentrate more, able to go to the drums when he was having a bad day. He feels the effects of what music means to him.”
Harrison said he knows he has the resources to pursue his passion. But he also realizes those same resources may not be available to all youngsters in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
That’s why he created a GoFundMe page through the website musicmattersnow.com with a goal of raising $25,000. The funds will be dispersed to Cardinal Shehan’s music program, as well as to Believe in Music, a Baltimore-based group that provides after-school music opportunities for children. Update: As of Feb. 11 at 11 a.m., the official documentary for Music Education Matters was live on its GoFundMe page and had raised close to $1,400. Go there to watch the video.
Initially, Harrison considered hosting a concert at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills, and selling tickets to raise funds. But with parental guidance, he decided to bring students together at KSDS to build a new community through music.
“Harrison has always been a big thinker,” Nicole Fribush said. “As a toddler, we could see he was a planner, big thinker, worrier. He’s always thought of how what he does impacts others.”
After holding a few meetings at both schools, about 50 students gathered on a snowy January morning at KSDS to learn “This is Me” by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek. Following solo and ensemble work, choreography and full group rehearsals, they performed the song in the KSDS lobby before a small crowd of enthusiastic parents and teachers.
Afterward, the students hugged each other and cheered while exchanging phone numbers to maintain their new relationships.
“It’s amazing how we’re different and so much alike, in so many ways,” said Kenyatta Hardison, Cardinal Shehan’s choir director and full-time music teacher. “We’re different in our culture or the way we do things. … [But] we all love music, sing the same words, move with the same music.
“The world would be such a better place if we could all do this,” she said. “Start with two schools at a time to work together. The evil things going on in this world would diminish.”
KSDS choir director Erika Pardes Schon, said her school’s choir has performed throughout the community in the past, but never at a joint choral event like this gathering.
“When you see children learning music together and performing together, it’s exciting and powerful,” she said. “We are uniting through voices, and all of a sudden our differences melt away. We have so much more in common when we are together singing.”
The project’s impact also was noted and appreciated by students from both schools. “The arts play a very important role in kids’ lives, and music really gives people purpose in life,” said Michael Bell, 12, a seventh grade student at Cardinal Shehan. “It can really save people’s lives. If you can connect through music, you can build a better and more peaceful community.”
Added Natan Golding, a KSDS seventh grade student: “We’re not only breaking down boundaries and barriers, but we’re spreading that passion for music and coming together and doing something great to make it possible for other people.”
Cardinal Shehan’s John Paige, 13, said coming together and performing as a single entity “is really showing the world this is possible.”
Schon commended Harrison’s passion for music and his desire to use it as a vehicle to empower other students.
“Harrison understands in a bigger way how music has transformed his life,” she said, “and he wants that for other students.”
For information, visit Harrison’s Project-Music Education Matters on Facebook.
Facebook Live video: Harrison’s Project — Music Education Matters
Linda L. Esterson is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.