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Gabriel Friedman '12 Awarded $10,000 Strauss Foundation Scholarship to Start Music Mentoring Program in Pomona Valley

Gabriel Friedman, Pomona College junior

Gabriel Friedman, Pomona College junior

Gabriel Friedman, a Pomona College junior, has been awarded $10,000 from the Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation to create a music mentoring program in the Pomona Valley.

Currently, most families in the Greater Pomona Valley region have limited access to musical instruments and private lessons are often unaffordable. Yet, for many children, access to an instrument and lessons can be a means of personal development and creative expression, leading to heightened self-esteem.

Friedman’s program will provide underprivileged elementary school students with musical instruments and pair them with students from the Claremont Colleges for voluntary, weekly music lessons. He plans to create the program in conjunction with the nonprofit Uncommon Good, matching children already in their mentoring program with the college musicians.

Music has been important to Friedman since he started taking piano lessons at age seven. While still taking piano lessons as a college freshman, he also began teaching piano to the daughters of a local family that couldn’t afford to pay for music lessons and became a mentor for Uncommon Good, which matches low-income children from Pomona Valley with college student mentors to encourage them to attend college and break the cycle of poverty.

A neuroscience major at Pomona College, Friedman was inspired to create the music mentoring program last summer when he learned that as few as 10 music lessons can produce measurable brain developments in children. According to Friedman, “a lot of preliminary research in children has suggested a wide variety of transfer benefits from music learning--including improvements in spatial, verbal and mathematical performance--and it is thought that the impact may be even greater in low-socioeconomic settings.” He plans to write his thesis on the cognitive effects of music learning in low-socioeconomic settings.

Friedman, a resident of Skokie, IL, attended Niles West High School and is the son of Richard and Carol Friedman. His future plans include a career in medicine. “As with medicine,” he says, “music requires innumerable hours of individual practice and study, but what matter most in the end, is the way it’s shared with other people.”

The Strauss Foundation currently awards 10-15 scholarships each year to fund public service projects proposed by college juniors in California. The Foundation was established in 1997 as a “tribute to the vision, ideals and leadership of Donald Strauss” and has now awarded 206 scholarships.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, is known for small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.