Concert will honor Ian Harleman's love of music on Saturday

To his closest friends, and family, Ian Harleman “represented a pure love for being with good people, and working hard,” lifelong friend Matt Campbell said. “What really tied those two things together for him was music.”

Throughout his life, Mr. Harleman dedicated himself to spreading his love of music to those he met. To those who knew him, it was no surprise Mr. Harleman was a lifelong drummer, Mr. Campbell said.

“He had a certain rhythm about him,” Mr. Campbell said, “and he was solid on the drums. That really reflected his personality in real life. Having that kind of person to keep the time is an important part of music. I don’t know if Ian really thought about that consciously when he picked up the drums, but that’s the way I see it.”

Though Mr. Harleman died at the age of 24 in 2011 as the result of a car accident, his memory continues to be honored through the Ian Harleman Rising Musicians’ Fund, recently established by his parents, Bob and Elizabeth Harleman. It has provided six-month scholarships for three Wilton students to study percussion with area teachers. The scholarships work out to a total award of approximately $5,000.

On Saturday, June 29, those three scholarship students, and a collection of young musicians from Wilton, will present a concert inspired by Ian Harleman at Wilton Library. It is free, and open to the public, and is being held in the Brubeck Room. Chris and Tish Brubeck were especially helpful in organizing the concert.

Musician Bob Riccio, the musical coordinator for the Harleman Fund, said the concert will be a “great celebration of music” that is inspired by the life of Mr. Harleman. Though he is keeping the concert set-list a secret, he said the music will be the same quality one would expect from “any other music venue. You will be hearing in this performance music played the same way professionals would play.

“There is going to be an amazing set of talent at this concert,” Mr. Riccio continued. “Many have never met each other, and the task they are taking on is huge. They’ve met 10 times to rehearse, and are performing six songs.”

“Initially, the idea was to have the three scholarship students participate in a week-long music camp. However, after some discussion the Harlemans decided the best way to celebrate Ian’s musical legacy was to give these students an opportunity to perform at an end-of-school informal concert.”

One of the scholarship teachers is drummer John Cutrone, whose students were Stefania Somma and Brendan Murtha, both of Wilton. The other instructor was Jim Lane, of Westport Music Lessons, who taught Ethan Shenhar of Wilton.

Mr. Cutrone said the students supported by the fund gained experience that is indispensable.

“The concept of learning an instrument has changed greatly since I was a child,” he said. “Many kids just want to say ‘give me a drum set and let me bang.’”

However, when a student receives a scholarship to study with Mr. Cutrone or Mr. Riccio, they get the chance to be instilled with a profound understanding of the hard work required of a professional musician.

“I’ve tried to carry on the tradition of teaching true concepts of music, that in an electronic age has somewhat been lost,” Mr. Cutrone said. “For normal people, they want to sign their kids up for a karate class, or a swimming team. They look at music as something you can learn in this kind of way. It’s like instant oatmeal, versus putting it on the stove and cooking it for 10 minutes. It’s learning it, and practicing it, and doing the homework.”

Mr. Harleman’s mother said he had discovered that kind of long-term passion for music in the sixth grade, when kids begin to realize they either “fit into the box,” or they don’t.

“He was always passionate about music, and in the sixth grade he started drum lessons,” she said. “They really helped shape who he became. It was an amazing outlet for him, as far as giving him the ability to connect with music, and something to excel at.”


For Ms. Harleman, helping other young people realize the way music can entertain, and inspire, is the largest goal of the Harleman Rising Musicians’ Fund.

“A lot of times people who are passionate about music have a special rhythm, or walk to a different drum beat,” she said in a recent interview. “They don’t always walk this sort of straight path that people are expected to. Sometimes it makes all the difference to show them that passion and to give them an opportunity to excel and soar and to experience that life outside of the normal structured educational environment.”

Mr. Riccio is a longtime musician who has taught, arranged, composed, and performed music for more than 20 years. In addition to teaching young students, Mr. Riccio has performed with jazz legends “Bones” Malone and Steve Gilmore. He has also composed, produced, and recorded music commercially for AT&T, IBM, and Pearl Vision.

Mr. Cutrone is a longtime jazz musician who has performed with Chris Brubeck on a number of occasions. He currently has 16 students studying at major music universities throughout the country, and has appeared on albums by Lou Stein and Pete Seeger, among others.

Mr. Lane is a professional drummer who has studied under Henry Adler. Mr. Adler is considered to be the greatest drum instructor “on the New York scene” for the past 55 years.

One of the most important things Harleman Fund students learned, Mr. Cutrone said, is to read music — a skill lost on even some professional musicians.

“They’re learning how to read,” he said. “They’re able to go to the Saturday Night Live studio and be able to read and play. That’s not taught as a standard. Hopefully I’ve been able to broaden their tools, and their concepts, so they can go on the road, and read a chart, or write a chart for themselves. So they don’t need me to teach them how to play something. They’re not just sitting there learning these parts by ear.”

With the economy still on the decline, Mr. Cutrone added that the Harleman fund provides very important lessons to children whose families may not have been able to afford it otherwise.

“The Harleman fund has done an incredible thing. Not just for specific people. It has furthered the concept of music education completely,” he said. “The students have taken full advantage of these lessons. I can’t thank the Harleman family enough for offering this opportunity. It’s a great way to honor their son by helping someone who might not have been able to do it on their own.”

Mr. Campbell is sure that, were Mr. Harleman able to see the effect his legacy is having on the town of Wilton, he would have been very impressed.

“I think Ian would be super proud of what Bob and Elizabeth have done,” he said of Mr. Harleman’s parents. “I think starting this as something to give people a way to direct their support in Ian’s memory has turned into something that is really reaching out to lots of young kids who didn’t know Ian, but share some of the similar qualities and passions as he did. He always loved seeing people enjoying what he loved. He would be thrilled to know we’re carrying on his legacy in this way.”

In the future, Ms. Harleman hopes the fund will continue to evolve and adapt to students’ changing needs. She hopes to begin hosting workshops to help more children realize their passion for music.

“Lots of kids want to be in a band, but they don’t know how to start one. Next year maybe we’ll put together a So You Want to Be in A Band workshop. Who knows what will happen, but the main purpose will stay the same: to honor Ian’s passion for music, performing, entertaining, and inspiring.”

For information on attending the concert, visit, and register on the events page.