Peace Week kicks off Oct. 1, and includes workshops, concerts, meditation, healthy eating
— At just 15 or 16 years old, most teens are still deciding, if at all, which career path they may want to take. Highland Square resident, Zach Freidhof, did have the good fortune to figure out his path; however, the journey to get there was quite a harried one — “and it just about killed me,” Freidhof remembers.
During the summer of his ninth-grade year, Freidhof was misdiagnosed and suffered a ruptured appendix. His long recovery and hospital stay prompted friends to bring him music to lift his spirits, and so it did, particularly the Beatles’ White Album.
And then …“Something clicked,” Freidhof remembers.
And his dreams of being a basketball player had forever changed.
The music had so moved Freidhof that he decided to pursue life as a performer before he even left the hospital. Evidently, the decision was a wise one. At 16, after writing some of his own music, he first performed as the last act at an open-mic night. Two of the three songs he sang were his own.
“I got a standing ovation and received bookings for the next year,” he says. Freidhof continued to perform on weekends throughout high school and college, where he received an associate’s art degree.
“My parents have always been supportive, and I am very grateful and blessed for them.” Now in his early 30s and performing half of his life, Freidhof does more than 200 shows across the country, cruising to gigs in his van he calls The Buffalo.
In 2014, he just released his 15th CD, Antidote. The guitarist, singer and songwriter is a recognizable face here in Akron, where he can be seen at area events, such as the city’s summer festivals and other gigs around town with his band, Zach and the Bright Lights.
The list is extensive, and some of Freidhof’s local accolades include Best Performing Local Artist for 2014 by Akronlife Magazine, a five-time nominee for the Cleveland Music Awards, and a three-time winner of Best Pop Act in the Cleveland Music Festival.
An only child who says he did not come from a musical family, Freidhof’s foray into the music world began modestly with a guitar from JC Penney, partially financed by his grandmother.
“It even had a built-in amp,” Freidhof recalls. “I’m pretty much self-taught.” Though born in Parma and schooled in Brecksville, Freidhof chose Akron for his musical home base, citing, “There’s just a very welcoming, wonderful community here for my style of music, which is much more prevalent here.”
In addition to the Beatles, Freidhof’s musical influence also includes Neil Young, with whom he’s performed, John Lennon, Prince and Jewel.
He’s opened for the Gin Blossoms, Michael Bolton, the 2001 Farm Aid, Bo Diddley and many more. “I’ve had a great opportunity to perform with a lot of wonderful folks.”
Freidhof’s music has been described as pop, rock and soul. “Something like that,” he offers. “I feel it’s my path and purpose through music to uplift and inspire folks; you have to engage people and try to connect,” Freidhof adds. “And if I can inspire one person, then I’ve really done my job. I only know how to give it all. I can’t really do less than that.”
And it is his need to motivate others, in addition to his passion for music, that also fuels Freidhof, whose calling card also lists Peace Activist and Inspiration.
From Oct. 1 through 9, the Fifth Annual Akron Peace Week will play out, an offshoot of the Akron Peace Project, founded by Freidhof and a friend in 2010.
“We were putting together a concert to sort of highlight peace and celebrate Gandhi’s birthday,” Freidhof says. “But while we were planning, we decided it would take more than one concert to handle what we planned, so it turned into a week.”
The thrust of the Akron Peace Project (www.akronpeaceproject.org) is “doing what we can in the community to establish partnerships and bring people together to give them the tools to bring non-violence to ourselves and our day,” says Freidhof.
The Peace Week kicks off at Crystal Awakenings in Bath, and the intent of the week is to highlight as many different partners in Akron who are doing good things to cultivate non-violence.
Throughout the week, there will be as many as 15 events to achieve that goal, including bike rides, a concert, meditation, storytelling, an eating healthy workshop, children’s events, yoga and even a laughter yoga session.
“We have an incredible laughter yoga guru coming from Cincinnati,” Freidhof says. “Almost all of the events are free, but the concert will cost about five bucks.”
A Peace Through Citizen Journalism event hosted by the Akronist will take place Oct. 4 at the Main Library.
The Peace Week concert plays out Oct. 5 with a performance at G.A.R. Hall in Peninsula by a group of artists Freidhof collaborated with on his Provenance CD.
Released in 2013, Provenance offers duets Freidhof co-wrote and recorded with 15 other artists with ties to Northeast Ohio.
All of the proceeds from Provenance will fund the Love Initiative, a soon-to-launch program created by Freidhof that will help Akron nonprofits create programs to educate and inspire non-violence.
With all of the causes one can be passionate about pursuing, promoting peace is certainly one of a Herculean effort.
Freidhof is an ardent admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader who possessed a profound spirituality and held a strong belief in social justice that inspired the world.
After reading about Gandhi, his legacy and work, Freidhof says he felt like he had to “do something beyond just learning about it, to act upon it, to do what I could to manifest it in my life.”
However, the path to Gandhi began with a 19th century Russian philosopher, political thinker and writer. “I think the whole beginning of my philosophical, spiritual journey began with [Leo] Tolstoy, who had some really spiritual writings,” Freidhof offers.
“He gave up everything he had to try and live more in line with his ideals, to walk the walk in what he believed.” Tolstoy’s writings led Freidhof to Gandhi, then to Martin Luther King Jr.
The demeanor of Freidhof, who is a yogi and vegan, seems to portray the very ideal he works to instill in others through his music and peace activism: inner peace, compassion, and, at times, an almost alarming serenity.
He’s partnered with peace projects in Cleveland and as far away as California, but reaffirms why he chose Akron to further his work toward peace. “For me, the most important thing is that we’re able to make the most effect, the most change in the circle closest to us.”
Being a good steward of the planet, Freidhof has forged a partnership with area businesses so that a percentage of CD and download sales from all of his music will fund the planting of trees to rebuild forests, stream beds, etc. in Northeast, Ohio, “from now until forever.”
In 2013, Akronlife magazine named Freidhof “Humanitarian of the Year.”
“I was very honored by that,” he says. “Quite honestly, I’m more honored by that than by any other award I’ve received.” More information about Freidhof may be found at www.zachmusic.net and on Facebook and Twitter.
Perhaps a difficult yet admirable goal, Freidhof’s tagline: “We should manifest ourselves in exquisiteness every chance we get.”