When Harun Mustafa came to Jefferson High School as a freshman, he didn’t have an outlet for his musical passion at school. Mustafa moved to Portland with his family from Norfolk, Viriginia in 2004, bringing with him a love for the cello. Through track coach (and Jefferson High School grad) Ronnye Harrison, he made a connection with Stefana Berceanu, director of the Pacific Crest Sinfonietta orchestra. She volunteered to give him cello lessons in the mornings before school. Soon, other kids got involved and since then the program has stayed afloat in one form or another through various grants and funding sources. Willamette Week wrote about Mustafa in 2010, after he graduated from Jefferson, both because of his involvement with music and because, at the time, he was serving time for assault in a prison in Eastern Oregon.
Shortly after he graduated from Jefferson, Mustafa was arrested after stabbing another young man with a pocket knife during an altercation in Northgate Park in North Portland. As Willamette Week pointed out, the wound required only one stitch to close. At first, Mustafa wasn’t allowed to play the cello in prison, but after reading about him in WW, a prison employee found a way to make an exception for him.
Just a three weeks after his release, Mustafa will play some of the pieces he wrote behind bars with the Portland Cello Project as part of a sold out show at the Aladdin Theater.
What would you like to ask Mustafa about his experiences? Does anything in his story resemble something that’s happened in your life? How has music sustained you through hard times?
Update 5/18: After the show Harun Mustafa played the cello a little bit more. You can watch the video here.