News Column

Musical benefit celebrates teen's life, love of music

June 20, 2013


June 20--METHUEN -- Music was a central part of Aaron Zabierek's life. He was involved in multiple bands at Methuen High School and played "Taps" at firefighter benefits, a nod to his firefighter grandfather.

Eleven years after Aaron died in a car crash, Zabierek's family and friends keep his memory alive with a scholarship fund for Methuen high seniors and, for the last few years, a concert at Nevins Memorial Library. On Friday, several musicians, ranging in age from 5 to 83, will perform in the What Music Means to Me Scholarship Concert beginning at 7 p.m.

Tickets for people 12 years and older are $10, with the proceeds going to the Aaron K. Zabierek Memorial Music Scholarship fund. Children younger than 12 are admitted at no charge.

"When you lose a child it's all about preserving his memory and his life," said Debra Zabierek, Aaron's mother who manages the scholarship with her husband, Gary. "It helps us keep him alive in everyone's hearts."

The scholarship is available to two Methuen high school seniors who have been in the marching band since at least 10th grade and graduated with a GPA of at least 3.0. Hopefuls write an essay describing themselves as part of the application.

"We look for qualities that our son had," Zabierek said. "He was a friendly kid, had time for anyone who asked for it. He gravitated towards the underdog." Loyalty to the band and band mates ranks high as well.

Emily Toabe Antifonario, a friend of Aaron's and onetime high school sweetheart who helped organize the concert, said the entire Zabierek family was "heavily involved in the music program." She and others said music is an obvious way to pay tribute.

Aaron Zabierek was a member of the Ranger Marching Band, the studio jazz band, the high school concert band and the pit orchestra, playing trumpet. He also played "Taps" at veterans funerals and Methuen firefighter memorial benefits.

"Music was a big part of his life," Debra Zabierek said. "We as a family spent a lot of time with him through music."

Frank Savory, former longtime band director at Methuen High School, said music tended to run in families and become a strong bond between friends.

"For all these kids, band was central to their lives," he said. "They lived, ate and slept band. The band, when I was in charge, was very busy all the time."

The music, performed by people from Methuen, Lawrence, Salem, N.H., and Lowell, will range from Bach to Elton John to Christina Perri to the traditional Irish Kerry Dance.

Aaron Zabierek died on June 30, 2002, at age 19 after crashing into a utility pole in Pelham, N.H. He had attended Norwich University in Vermont for a year, but at the time was living at home, working as a waiter at Jimmy's II in Methuen.

The scholarship was founded shortly after his death, though the concert fund raisers are only in their fourth year.

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