May 10th, 2011 | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: Cops and Courts

Cover Story Update: Harun Mustafa to Play with Portland Cello Project

Portland Cello ProjectThe Portland Cello Project - by Tarina Westlund

The subject of a 2010 cover story in WW will play three shows with the Portland Cello Project this month.

Harun Mustafa, the now 21-year-old subject of last year's piece, was a promising cello player when a single mistake at age 19 sent him to prison for 18 months. During a fight in North Portland, Mustafa used a pocket knife to defend himself, he says. He later admitted to Portland Police he had used the knife. Officers then identified Mustafa's victim in a local hospital with a one-inch wound that required a single stitch to close. Finally, prosecutors charged Mustafa with assault under Measure 11. After serving his full sentence, Mustafa was released late last month.

In response to the story last year, one WW reader—the subject of another WW cover story in 2008—helped buy Mustafa a new cello. The Oregon Department of Corrections then relaxed its rules to allow Mustafa to have access to the cello in prison, a move that earned the state agency a "Rose" of the Week honor from WW. (Under most circumstances, prisoners can play guitars or piano behind bars but nothing else.)

The Portland Cello Project first learned about Mustafa from Jyothi Pulla, the mother of twin girls at the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women, which is part of the Jefferson High School cluster. As a student at Jefferson in 2005, Mustafa was responsible for creating a new music program at Jefferson that then spread to the nearby Tubman campus. "There are so many kids, including mine, who would not have been able to afford a music class [without Mustafa]," Pulla told WW in 2010. "We really owe him."

After Mustafa went to prison, Pulla became his advocate. She contacted the Portland Cello Project about Mustafa and the group agreed to play his compositions at a May 2010 concert in Portland.

Mustafa himself will now play at three Portland Cello Project concerts this month—in Seattle May 12, Hillsboro on May 14 and Portland May 20 at the Aladdin Theater. Tickets are on sale now at the link above.

 
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