International recording star plays Parkrose

Find out why Michael Allen Harrison performs a concert every year at Parkrose High School – and how you can help him give music education in schools a real boost …

Members of Parkrose High School choirs gather in their rehearsal room for what will be their last performance of the Holiday season – and their first show of the New Year.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Even though it’s during his busy Holiday season, internationally-known recording artist Michael Allen Harrison has made time to return to his alma mater, Parkrose High School, for a special concert aptly entitled “Home Again”.

In 2008, a winter blizzard postponed that December concert; and, in late 2009, the threat of an impending ice storm put off his Holiday show until January 2, 2010. Even with the month-long delay, this year’s program drew a good-sized audience of supporters to the concert that is the school’s major fundraiser for the year.

The Choral director at Parkrose High School, Lesley Bossert, says Harrison’s concert helps the school’s program in many ways.

“It’s really great for our choirs that Michael is willing to give us the benefit of his time and talent,” Parkrose High’s choir instructor, Lesley Bossert, told us. “He’s a good example to our students of the positive result that comes from hard work and perseverance. And, his concert brings many people to our campus who might not otherwise visit us.”

The program began with two songs by the combined youth choir from Prescott School and Russell Academy.

The Parkrose High School Treble Choir performed, accompanied by Jodyne Holloway.

Both the Parkrose Debonaires (seen here) and the A Cappella Choir also performed at the concert.

School choirs start concert
Again this year, the program started with choral presentations by elementary school kids, and the Parkrose High School choirs. Under the direction Bossert, the high school choirs performed their songs with virtuosity.

Judging by the audience’s response to the musical offerings, no one was put off by the Holiday-themed repertoire even though it was early January.

Noticing new choir risers in the acoustical concert shell, we learned that their purchase was made possible by a substantial donation to Parkrose-base YoCream Frozen Yogurt.

Producer, composer, arranger, and a concert pianist who records under his own MAH Records label, Michael Allen Harrison began his program by sharing memories about attending Parkrose High School.

Harrison learns more than music
“Coming back to Parkrose is part of my tradition,” Harrison told us before the program. “It’s about being part of the fabric of this community. This is where I grew up, you know. Being here helps me stay connected with memories I had growing up.”

Harrison – a proud member of the class of 1976 – credited his high school music teachers with much of his later success. “To me, and the other students, they were more than teachers. They were mentors – icons in my life. They made me do things that I would have otherwise never imagined doing. They didn’t coddle us; they made us work.”

Harrison plays one of his compositions for the receptive audience.

Pressing students to go beyond their “comfort zone” may be out of fashion these days, Harrison noted, “But there’s a lot of great learning [that comes from] being pressed to do more than what feels comfortable at the time.”

Harrison had high praise for current Parkrose High instructors, too. “It’s wonderful to see an educators like Lesley Bossert continue this tradition. It’s inspiring to see what Ms. Zena and Terry Franceschi do in the theater department – getting kids involved. They ‘set the bar high’ enough to encourage kids to achieve.  There’s so much value in that.”

Talking to his audience, Harrison mentions that this was his seventh “Home Again” concert, and added how pleased he was to return to his school.

As part of his introductory remarks, he reminded those present that this year’s “Ten Grands” program – concert artists performing music on 10 grand pianos – would again take place at the Arlene Schnitzer Auditorium, this year on April 2nd and 3rd, as a benefit for the Snowman Foundation. “Our goal is to help bring music education back to schools in the Pacific Northwest.” (Learn more about this concert and the organization: CLICK HERE).

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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