Zach Friedland ’13 was the rare music major who had multiple compositions commissioned before he graduated.

With a lengthy list of scholarships and awards and nothing but praise for his professors, Zach was so inspired by his time on campus that he composed the URI recessional, High Altitudes; Think Big We Do. On May 19th, he performed it with the commencement band on his own graduation day.

“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 Zach, 23, 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, Zach is in fine health today, but still meets regularly with his doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital. One of those trips happened to be on the day of  of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s funeral. As traffic signs flashed farewell messages to the senator, Zach thought of Kennedy’s famous speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention:  “ . . . the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” Those words inspired Zach’s American Dreams, an elegy composed in 15 sections, each with a separate theme representing parts of Kennedy’s life.

“It is not only a celebration of the American dream, it is a celebration of all the values he demonstrated,” he said.

Zach is living his own American dream. This fall, he will attend graduate school at the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Mass.