Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harrison Fribush had a dream.
A Krieger Schechter eighth grade student, Harrison dreamed of members of his Pikesville day school’s choir singing in harmony with their peers from the Cardinal Shehan School, a private Catholic school in North Baltimore’s Loch Raven community.
Harrison saw that dream come alive last year as part of his bar mitzvah project. Now, the nation saw it as well as the combined choirs performed today, Jan. 20, on the popular TV show “The View,” in honor of the national observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The show — which aired at 11 a.m. on ABC (WMAR-TV Channel 2 in Baltimore) — was taped last Tuesday, Jan. 14, with approximately 50 members of both choirs bused to New York.
“Being on the Martin Luther King show [of ‘The View’] is really significant because of what he stood for,” said Harrison, 14. “I think it’s really similar to what we’re trying to do, how just because people are different doesn’t mean they can’t work together and be together. So I think that what we’re doing is a really good demonstration of what he stood for.”
The taping continued a joint KSDS-Cardinal Shehan partnership that began more than a year ago when Harrison prepared for his bar mitzvah last March at Chizuk Amuno Congregation. He brought the two choirs together, with the support of his parents, Eric and Nicole Fribush, and both school administrations, and created a documentary to raise money for after-school music programming in Baltimore City.
The documentary, “Music Education Matters,” has so far raised in excess of $11,000. After paying fees from the effort’s Go Fund Me page, Harrison has donated $5,000 to both the Believe in Music and Cardinal Shehan music programs, and the fundraising continues.
During the taping on Jan. 14, the students performed a medley of songs — including John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Diana Ross’s “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” — with Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award winner Billy Porter. ABC asked that Porter’s involvement remain undisclosed until after the show’s airing.
In addition, Harrison was interviewed by “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg, who brought the Cardinal Shehan choir to the show in 2017 to sing Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” and an excerpt of the documentary was shown.
Interviewed by Jmore shortly after the taping, Harrison, who lives in Stevenson, said being interviewed by the Academy Award-winning actress gave him a chance to explain the collaboration of the schools and how the project all relates to King’s life’s message.
“It’s almost exactly what he stood for,” he said. “There’s no reason to be segregated from each other. We should all be working together. It’s really significant because it just gives people hope with everything that’s going on right now. I think this segment will bring people joy.”
Among those on hand at the taping were KSDS choir director Erika Pardes Schon and Cardinal Shehan music director Kenyatta Hardison.
Schon compared the joint choir program to the work of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Jewish leader who marched with King in the 1960s on behalf of civil rights and social justice.
“That struggle is a powerful lesson for us,” she said. “I think our students now reflect on this lesson even more deeply when they work together with a Baltimore City choir with a different background. They have a different faith tradition, but when they sing together they are one and the same. They are students caring about the same values, caring about the same musical expressions for peace and justice and equality for everyone.”
The students began the day on Jan. 14 at 4 a.m. when they boarded buses chartered by “The View.” They were treated to bagels at the Manhattan studio upon arrival and began rehearsals. Following a pizza lunch break and hair and makeup sessions, they prepared for the performance and departed around 2:30 p.m. with bags of cookies from Zabar’s deli and cafe for the trip home.
The magnitude of the day resonated immensely with students from both schools.
“We came together as a community to honor Dr. King’s words … how it’s alright to be black, it’s alright to be Jewish,” said John Paige, an eighth grade student at Cardinal Shehan. “It was pretty different from what we did at the school, for a small cause. We became part of something bigger.”
KSDS eighth grade student Natan Golding said he enjoyed the experience and opportunity to continue spreading an important message about equality and fellowship.
“Equality for all, no matter your race, creed, background, faith. It doesn’t matter, we can all come together in a common passion,” he said. “We can all find common ground as humans as part of the human race, and come together and just change the world.”
Golding said his generation will be responsible for taking the first step toward “world change, changing the mindset toward these issues. And we have the power. If we make connections early on … if we find common ground with these communities that we may not interact with in our regular lives, we can change the world.
“We can do anything.”
KSDS and Cardinal Shehan are planning a viewing event at a later date to celebrate their collaboration. The partnership documentary may be viewed in full at www.musicmattersnow.com.
Watch video of the performance:
Linda L. Esterson is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.