But after the last song was played, it was clear the show had been more than just the sum of those two assertions.
"I used to think classical stuff was all boring," 10-year-old Christina Galajan said. "He actually made it cool."
To do that, the Grammy award-winning cellist relied on several masks that he wore for different portions of his story-laced performance.
An introduction into the frustrations of practicing an instrument got the sour-faced mask. A dream Friesen had about his backyard squirrel playing his cello got the squirrel mask. A tribute to the late cello virtuoso Pablo Casals got the decrepit old man's mask.
Each of the stories elicited different reactions from the students, from laughter to somber silence to jolts of surprise.
"I was just fascinated with how the masks can affect the way an instrument can be played in different ways with different characters," Friesen said.
Recorded sounds of humpback whales were also used as one half of a duet with Friesen's cello as part of his ode-to-nature segment.
"The show really is a sort of personal performance based on my values," he said.
The value Friesen drove home the most throughout his performance was the innovation and freedom to be had by playing any musical instrument.
"You can play any music you want with any instrument you want," he told the students.
To illustrate his point, Friesen strapped the cello to his chest, hung a tambourine around his neck, capped his head with a cymbal and tied wooden bells to one of his feet.
He then began swinging his bow at almost every part of his body in rhythmic time — hitting everything from the strings on his cello to the cymbal atop his to produce a one-man jam session for the children.
"That was my favorite part," 10-year-old Jiani Navarro said. "He made it more hip."
The performance was the last in a three-part music series at the school arranged through the Music Center as a way of introducing children to alternative forms of music.
Last week the students were overrun with kilts and Scottish war cries during a performance by the Wicked Tinkers. The week before that, students were given a light introduction to brass instruments by a quartet from the Glendale Symphony Orchestra.
"I think it makes it more accessible for them," said Rebecca Silva, who helps coordinate the shows for the Music Center.
"It's not about just sitting there and listening to the music. It brings them in."
JASON WELLS covers public safety and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at jason.wellslatimes.com.