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Portland composer Michael Allen Harrison hosting virtual supper club to benefit young musicians

Michael Allen Harrison's 'Play It Forward' program provides no-cost music lessons and instruments for kids. And his virtual supper club is a nice treat for adults.

PORTLAND, Ore. — There are plenty of lessons to be learned in the middle of a pandemic, and Portland composer Michael Allen Harrison is using his talent to keep kids engaged. 

“We get the job done, we stay connected and it keeps the kids busy,” he said, "And also it keeps us from missing each other."

The new approach may be a little out of sync, with virtual meetings being the only option, but it's not out of tune. Harrison is carrying on with lessons from a distance. 

“Connecting and interacting with another human being no matter what the activity is is important for all of us.”

Through his organization Play It Forward (PIF), there are over 100 kids getting more than just musical mentorship.

“Not only are we giving free lessons to the kids," Harrison said. "They’re getting a free piano that came from the community.” 

Donations of gently used instruments of all kinds have given Portland youth the chance to learn a skill on their very own instrument with no strings attached. Heaven-Fay Scroggins is one of those kids.

“We have a lot of fun," she said. "I like when we do the recitals."

Students have participated in virtual recitals over the summer to show off what they’ve learned, helping them stand a little taller. 

“I think one of the biggest things that it will give each young person is a big boost in confidence, more than anything,” Michael said.

It’s music to his ears, that he wants to share with everyone. On July 25 at 7 p.m., PIF will deliver a “supper club” style fundraiser right to Portlanders' doors. 

“Just a great mix of community and music and great food and great wine, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s the Play It Forward Supper Club,” Harrison said.

Like in-person galas the organization has held, there will be an auction, the dinner delivery, and of course the entertainment. 

“I’ll be performing with my friend Julianne Johnson," Harrison said. "Jim Brickman, who’s one of the most popular pianists in the world will be performing from his living room.

“Through this virtual ‘COVID-ian’ interlude that we’re all experiencing, fortunately we have these platforms where we can stay connected, it’s not the same as being in person,” he said. “We’re getting the job done, we’re keeping the flame burning and we’re doing the best we can.”

For tickets to the virtual Play It Forward Supper Club, visit www.PIFmusic.org. For those who want the full supper club experience with dinner delivery, the deadline is July 18.

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