Interfaith rock group comes together in Frederick County

When Jamie Krantz was invited to join a band made up of musicians of different faiths, she was tempted to say no. She worried she wouldn't have anything in common with the other players. But she agreed to join the group as a vocalist, and she's glad she did.

"We all care about the music, we're all teenagers," said 16-year-old Jamie, who is Jewish and a junior at Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick. "It's a really nice connection."

The band, called Interfaith Rock, was formed in January and includes musicians who are Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist and Jewish. The goal is to foster understanding between the different faiths, but the musicians are too busy rehearsing to spend time discussing the intricacies of their religions.

And that's exactly as it should be, said Scott Rose, who formed the group as an offshoot of an interfaith organization started by his daughter, Aubrey — now in college — and her friend Jacob Abuhamada, 19, a guitarist and student at Frederick Community College.

"We don't sit around and talk about our faith," said Rose. "We're very focused on activity. We're just going to play music together."

The band got started in January with sponsorship from St. Katharine Drexel Roman Catholic Church in Frederick, which provides a place to practice, and a $1,200 grant from the Community Foundation of Frederick County. That money allowed the group to hire a music director, Greg Ross, who is also music director at St. John's Catholic Prep, the school in Frederick where Aubrey and Jacob went to school and where Aubrey's younger brother, Austin, is now a sophomore.

When his dad proposed forming an interfaith band, "I thought it was a great idea," said Austin, 16, who plays drums. He helped his father reach out to band members and recommended Ross as music director. "I'm sure we'll keep it going."

"It's been really amazing for me," said Ross. "I've never really seen a band come together so quickly and be so successful."

Other members of the group are vocalist Salmaan Ali, percussionists Sadiq and Marya Asad, crew member Justin Haber, bassist Alec Pain, guitarist Philip Book and pianist Melissa Rifkin.

They practice every other week, choosing songs with social justice or unity themes, or playing songs that represent their faiths.

"It's pretty fun," said Philip, 16, a sophomore at St. John's and a guitarist in the group. "Some of the songs, we kind of mess with them and make them a little more rock."

The group changed the lyrics of one song, called "I Love You and Buddha Too," because whenever a Muslim says the name of the Prophet Muhammad, it must be followed with a phrase that means "may peace and blessings be upon Him." The song did not originally include those words, said Jacob, but the group added them.

"I think the best part of the band is that it represents so many people coming together through music," said Sadiq, who is 16, Muslim, and a junior at St. Maria Goretti High School in Hagerstown. "We can get our message out there as much as we possibly can through music."

Already, the group is getting positive attention and gigs. On March 24, Interfaith Rock is scheduled to play at the Weinberg Auditorium in Baltimore, opening for an event to benefit Frederick Alliance for Youth. The group is also scheduled to perform at a June 3 fundraiser at St. John's Regional Catholic School, and in the opening ceremony of the Annual 9/11 United Walk, which will be held Sept. 9 in Washington.

"Most of my life right now revolves around either music or interfaith works," said Jacob, who is Tibetan Buddhist, with a father who is Muslim and a mother with a "Christian background."

Fostering relationships and understanding among people of different religions can spark new ways of thinking and foster a more peaceful future, he said. "People talk about international relations a lot, they talk about relations between political groups, but the relations between religious groups are not given much attention."

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