Music as Inspiration — Michael Allen Harrison
— TEDxMtHood is honored to introduce Michael Allen Harrison as one of our 2016 musical guests. —
The essence of Michael Allen Harrison is not just his musical talent – it’s what he does with it. More specifically, it’s how he uses his talent to enable others, particularly children, to discover and nurture their own talent. As the founder and president of The Snowman Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides instruments, instructors, and encouragement to young people in need, his service goes beyond his music.
A native Oregonian and graduate of Parkrose High School, the pianist and songwriter released his first album, “Tea Court Interlude,” in 1986 and, with more than fifty albums since, has never looked back. Harrison’s classical/contemporary style, laced with his own impromptu commentary, is known to be soothing to ear, mind, and soul, whether live in concert or via album recording. But teaching, mentoring, and inspiring musicians of all ages to exhibit the same passion he has is what really drives him. In that regard, he doesn’t just play notes – he changes lives.
A young friend of mine, Xander, a twelve year-old aspiring singer whose troupe was recently invited to perform in concert with Harrison, experienced this life-changing care first-hand. Sporting a fedora and his exuberant smile, my young friend sang his own rendition of Gershwins’, “They Can’t Take that Away from Me.” He did…okay, and even threw his hat out into the audience, but after he bowed, his smile didn’t quite make it to his eyes. To polite applause, Xander started to leave the stage. But Harrison wouldn’t let him.
“That sounded a lot different during rehearsal, didn’t it?” he asked. Xander nodded. He got up from his piano bench, put his arm around the boy, and said, “Sometimes that happens. You see all the faces, get a little nervous, and don’t do as well as you could. How ‘bout we try it again?” Though it was the same song, the result was drastically different. As Xander relaxed, his voice grew more forceful. He started having fun – even ad-libbing. And those of us in the crowd loved it, clapping in rhythm and swaying to the music. It was so much better – for Xander, for Michael Allen Harrison, and for everyone there!
Thus, what we experienced was much more than a concert. It was the lifting up of an individual. And that is an idea worth spreading.
Feeling called to be part of the TEDx team—by name even!—Ted Moeller is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. He retired from the Canadian Armed Forces (a paratrooper chaplain) to plant a church in Vancouver, Washington. Ted loves the Pacific Northwest—its coffee, microbrews, sports teams, even its weather! In addition to being a pastor he is also a professor at Concordia University. Formerly, he was a high school basketball coach, a disk jockey, and co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (in 1988, sharing it with 35,000 other peacekeepers!). He married Patricia Chylla of Bloomfield Hills, MI, a third of a century ago. They have two children, Laura and Rebecca, and a Labrador named Kona.