Ella Freund is holding a concert to help sick kids. COURTESY JENNIFER FREUND

‘Mitzvahpalooza’

Saturday, Oct. 7

Studio Playhouse
14 Alvin Place

studioplayhouse.org

By ROSEMARIE SALVATORE
For Montclair Local

Music means a lot to Glenfield Middle School seventh-grader Ella Freund, because she has grown up with it. Ella “lives and breathes music,” according to her mom, Jennifer Freund.

Ella said, “My dad is a musician and ever since I was little my dad would always play and sing to me. I saw pictures and videos of kids who have cancer and it made me upset that they don’t have the life that I do.”

With that in mind, Ella decided to produce Mitzvahpalooza, a free community concert this Saturday, Oct. 7.

Ella will turn 13 on Feb. 12 of next year, and about a month later, will celebrate her bat mitzvah. Bar and bat mitzvah students at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield are required to do a community service project as part of their preparation. While the concert is free, donations will be taken at the door to benefit MyMusicRx, the central program of the Children’s Cancer Association, a nonprofit organization based in Oregon.

CCA’s in-hospital program includes “sing-a-longs led by trained music specialists, instrument and iPad lending from mobile music carts, and live concerts from national recording artists,” according to its website.

While Ella knew that she wanted to do something to help kids with cancer right from the start, the challenge was finding an organization that fit so well with her interests. Jennifer recalled, “We happened to see a segment on the ‘Today Show’ about another similar music program and her eyes just lit up.”

But they couldn’t get in touch with that organization in the time frame they had, so they searched online and found MyMusicRx.

“This is a great project for Ella because it combines her love of music with her huge heart,” her mother said.

Ella not only organized the entire event, she will also perform in the concert herself. She plays mandolin and bass and is learning the piano. Ella’s father plays the saxophone, among many other instruments, and her sister sings. All the artists taking part in this concert are Ella’s friends and relatives who sing, dance or play an instrument.

For Ella’s mother, the community service aspect of bar and bat mitzvah preparation is particularly worthwhile.

“This is when I had my first volunteer experience, when I was her age — and I’m a social worker now. So it really had a huge impact on my life,” she said. “It’s a great way to open kids’ eyes and give them that little push they might need to do something good and hopefully make volunteering a part of their life.”

Ella recently visited St. Joseph’s Hospital to play for cancer patients there. She said, “Sharing music with the kids there made me feel happy because they were all enjoying it. I hope that maybe they forgot for a moment why they are there.”