KINGSTON, R.I., May 1, 2013 - When music composition major Zach Friedland graduates from the University of Rhode Island on May 19, he’ll be playing with the commencement band as it performs High Altitudes; Think Big We Do, the recessional that he composed.
“The fun part for me is it’s about everybody celebrating that day and I get to be a piece of what people will see and hear and remember,” said the 23-year-old from Richmond, R.I., who’s accumulated a lengthy list of accomplishments during his time in Kingston.
Friedland, who will be attending graduate school in the fall at the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Mass., is the rare music major who’s already had multiple pieces commissioned. He’s worked with the Savannah River Winds, a community concert band from South Carolina and Georgia, and educators at numerous middle and high schools in Rhode Island. For example, Woonsocket High School Band Director Christopher Depot, who graduated from URI in 2011, commissioned Friedland to create a song for the Villa Novans. The result was Hataali Dances, which touched on Navaho history and folk music. Friedland remains open to all musical opportunities and encourages others to also.
“The fact is that college and life are what you make of it. I would encourage anyone to invest in every road and every opportunity that you come across,” said Friedland, who started piano lessons at age 5 and drums at age 9. “I was the first kid to band and the last to leave.”
He was also a kid who knew what it was like to spend time in the hospital. Diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at six weeks old, Friedland is in fine health but he still meets with his doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital. One of the last times he was coming home from the hospital was the day of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s funeral. While his mother drove, traffic signs flashing messages of farewell to the senior senator from Massachusetts. Friedland thought of Kennedy’s famous speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention when he said, “. . . the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” The result was Friedland’s American Dreams, an elegy for Kennedy composed in 15 sections, each with a separate theme representing parts of the senator’s life.
“It is not only a celebration of the American dream, it is a celebration of all the values he demonstrated,” Friedland said.
Friedland strongly believes that coming to URI was the best decision he could have made. He praised the quality and experience of the music faculty, singling out URI Assistant Director of Bands and Director of Athletic Bands Brian Cardany and the late Ron Stabile, a percussion instructor.
“I think you will only find here at URI the level of personal interest in student learning and in advancement,” said Friedland, who is the first recipient of the new W. Francis McBeth Student Musicianship Award and was the 2011 recipient of the James Ladewig Scholarship in Music History. He was a drum major in the URI Marching Band and has served as student conductor for the URI Wind Ensemble for past four semesters.
Friedland followed his passion for conducting at URI and took seven semesters of the craft with URI Director of Bands Gene J. Pollart through independent study. He remembers as a child being in band practice on the day the band director was out sick and the students were asked if anyone could conduct. Friedland was the first to respond.
“I’m up there and I’m conducting and I was like, oh my God! This is all I want to do,” he said.