Don Friedman was born May 4, 1935, in San Francisco. His parents loved classical music and they owned a piano. Under their guidance, Don started playing at age four. He began lessons at five with a private teacher named Katherine Swint. Though he had no exposure to jazz at this time Don taught himself to improvise.
When he was 15, his family moved to the San Fernando Valley in Greater Los Angeles. Two years later he began to head regularly for the Hollywood Palladium to hear the bands of Les Brown, Stan Kenton and Billy May. That fueled his love for jazz. Kenton soloists Lee Konitz, Conte Condoli, and Frank Rossolino inspired Don as he transformed his focus from classical music to jazz.
Don studied jazz at Los Angeles City College and also on his own by playing along with records of Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis