On a quiet dead-end street in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood, Zachary Self and Aaron Walker-Loud have set up shop, doing that enviable thing: blending professional work and the art they love.
In a combination recording studio and music school, Zach mixes sound in the basement while Aaron and four other musicians give lessons upstairs, teaching students from Seattle’s less-advantaged neighborhoods to play, compose, perform and record music, providing an artistic outlet local schools can’t.
They call themselves One Family, and their philosophy is, “everyone is an artist, once they are given the chance.”
Zach’s own chance came at an early age — perhaps why he is eager to give back to the community.
In 1999, while in high school at the Bush School (where he also attended grades kindergarten through 6), “one of my best friends, Frank Hendler, told me to write a poem ‘that rhymes.’ I wasn’t too into poetry, more into short essays and stories,” Self recalls, but he came though and that quickly evolved into a crew (hip-hop duo) called Elevated Elements. “Frank produced the music and I wrote the lyrics.”
Other members joined and the band went on to tour “all the states and Sweden.” Some members even toured in China, although school kept Zach home from that trip.
“We met a lot of people, sold a lot of CDs, and that entire time I was developing my know-how in the business,” Self remembers.
Aaron cut his performing teeth in the nationally known Garfield High School jazz band. He continues to play drums and teaches them at the studio, and directs the studio house band.
The studio was constructed in 2003 and opened in 2004 with a “beats history and voices” project in collaboration with Seattle Central Community College’s coordinated studies program. One Family continues to work with a variety of youth-focused, grant-funded projects.
In addition to music, explains Self, “we help kids understand what citizenship means through music by setting goals, developing plans and discipline, and give them something to feel proud of. We’re [providing] …what community needs, filling voids created by arts budget cuts in schools.”
Zach grew up mainly in Seattle, where his mom, Melenie Bloch, had moved to take advantage of outdoor recreation. (She was, for many years, human resource director at Lighthouse for the Blind.) He also spent time in Memphis, where his African-American father is from.
Zach is proud of his multi-faceted ancestry and remains close to his mom’s side of the family.
“My grandfather was a Russian Jew. He fled to the States, and went to medical school,” he notes. But because of religious discrimination he moved to Holland to finish school, where Melenie and her brother were born. Eventually the family returned to Rochester, N.Y.
In addition to teaching and recording, One Family produces live shows featuring their up-and-coming students as well as their house band. For information about their programs call 206-323-2543 or e-mail them at OneFamilyInc@gmail.com.
For many years, Rabbi Arthur J. Jacobovitz was the director of University of Washington Hillel. He retired 15 years ago, but about five years ago a small institute was founded in his name to fund educational programs. This year they’ve created a new opportunity: the Arthur J. Jacobovitz Scholarship for Study in Israel.
The inaugural recipient is Ariel Huntley, a recent graduate of Northwest Yeshiva High School. Although originally from Sacramento, Calif., Ariel came up here four years ago specifically to attend the yeshiva. (This has caused his parents, both dermatologists who teach at UC Davis, to gradually begin to move up here, as well. They’ve been attending Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath.)
Ari is traveling with his parents as I write this, and was unavailable for comment. After vacation he’ll go directly to Israel to begin studies at Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah.
“We’re pleased, and I’m pleased, that the board made this decision,” says Steve Hemmat, one of the institute’s five board members. He says the scholarship is “a milestone event that will provide assistance to a student who has a lot of potential, who might not have had the opportunity to study in Israel.” He adds that the yeshiva fits in with Rabbi J’s philosophy to provide “quality education from a modern Orthodox perspective, and build leadership.”
This relatively new yeshiva offers a one-year study program specifically geared to college-bound Orthodox high school graduates — another stipulation of the scholarship was that the recipients continue their secular education.
Ari will study engineering and computer science at Yeshiva University in New York next fall. In Israel he will study classical Jewish texts and learn skills that will allow him to continue to study on his own for the rest of his life.
There’s more information about Yesodei HaTorah at www.yesodeihatorah.org, and, of course, about NYHS at their Web site, www.nyhs.net.