Freshman Nate Hirsch puts his music to work for a good cause

Nate Hirsch composed six original songs for his concert. Photo by Ann McCreary

Nate Hirsch composed six original songs for his concert. Photo by Ann McCreary

By Ann McCreary

Nate Hirsch, a Liberty Bell High School freshman, is turning his singing and songwriting talents to address a global crisis — lack of sanitary water for millions of people.

Hirsch, 15, is hoping to make the world a better place for at least a few of those people by raising money to provide clean water through a concert and presentation next Wednesday (May 28) at 7 p.m. at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp.

The concert is the culmination of a year-long independent study project conducted by Hirsch through Liberty Bell High School.

“I’ve always had an interest in music,” said Hirsch, who at the ripe old age of 11 performed several times with the band Luc and the Lovingtons in the Methow Valley and traveled with the band on tour with singer Jason Mraz.

Hirsch’s passion for music prompted him and his father, Steve, to explore ways to incorporate music into an independent educational project. They began talking about possibilities last spring, and decided to research charitable causes that Hirsch might want to support through music.

Hirsch received approval from school officials to do an independent study for elective credit, and working with his father and school staff members, developed a plan for the project.

Steve Hirsch said the independent study project has given his son “the opportunity to do something where there’s no kind of yardstick … where he can have his own motivation to keep pushing him forward.”

Hirsch began by researching nonprofit charitable organizations on www.charitynavigator.org, a website that rates charities based on factors like financial accountability and transparency. He learned about organizations that provide electricity and those that address climate change, but in the end he chose the global water crisis as his focus.

 “I guess I felt water was something everybody had,” Hirsch said. He said he was shocked to learn from his research that more than 3 million people, most in developing countries, die each year from water-related diseases.

Hirsch said he was inspired when he learned that lives are being saved through the work of Water.org, a nonprofit organization that provides access to safe water and sanitation, and chose that organization to support.

He named his project “FLOW,” which stands for “Fulfilling Lives, Optimizing Water.” As part of his independent study, Hirsch first wrote a paper about charitable organizations and another about the global water crisis. He posted his papers on a website, www.flownate.org, that he developed for the project.

“I learned about all the factors causing the global water crisis, and what has to happen to stop or slow it,” Hirsch said.

“Most people who are affected by a lack of sanitary water suffer from waterborne diseases, which can lead to extreme dehydration and death. Unclean water alone kills more people than AIDS, measles and malaria combined,” Hirsch wrote in his essay about the issue.

Digging wells, providing education about clean water and hygiene, and building toilets can help prevent these deaths. More people in the world have mobile phones than toilets, Hirsch wrote.

To help people understand the impact of the global water crisis, Hirsch also created an 11-minute video to provide an overview of the problems and solutions, which he will present at his concert.

“The songs came next,” Hirsch said. At his concert, he will perform six original songs “inspired by the hardships that people without water go through every day and also that all people can strive to help others and make this world a better place,” Hirsch said.

Writing the songs took about a month and a half, said Hirsch, who is a student of Winthrop pianist and composer Lynette Westendorf. He said Westendorf helped him develop his songs for the concert.

“It’s fairly hard to write a song,” Hirsch said. “First is coming up with the message. The melody is pretty easy. I love it when I’m messing around on the piano and I come up with a melody. The lyrics can be hard to come up with.”

Following is an excerpt from one of his compositions, called “Take Away the Power:”

If you take away the power

Take away the greed

Look into the world then

What else is left to see

Cause life is bout connection

Everyone deserves to be happy

Cause I’m one out of seven billion people in the world

And all I can think of is me

 “I’m going to talk a little about the crisis … intersperse talking with the songs, so it’s not just like a speech,” Hirsch said. “I think music is a good way to attract people to the event.”

He hopes to inspire people to donate to Water.org, and has a goal of raising $5,000. That amount would provide safe, clean water to 200 people for their lifetime, Hirsch said. 

The cost of renting The Merc is being paid out-of-pocket, so all donations will go to Water.org, said Steve Hirsch.

Tickets for the concert — $10 for a regular seat or $20 for a premium seat — can be reserved on the project website, www.flownate.org., or are available at the door. Donations to Water.org can also be made on the website.