At the core of any encounter is an exchange of ideas
I strongly believe that providing a child or an adult with real experience (i.e. encounters) is the best way for them to learn.
I look for opportunities to inspire my students at Berklee College of Music, my private students who attend my studio, and my friends, with the belief that one can accomplish any project they put their mind to.
When both success and adversity are encountered along the musical pathways of my students, knowledge and character are formed. Therefore their reward is also my reward.
For Luisa and me, great teachers and mentors have been extremely instrumental in helping us along the way and brings us great joy to have become that same inspiration in the lives of others.
Encouraging our Veterans
From Mary Peak, Voluntary Service Specialist at VA Hospital in Jamaica Plain (MA):
"Dear Kevin and Steve, on behalf of the VA Boston Healthcare System patients and staff, we would like to extend our appreciation to you for sharing the gifts of your time and extraordinary talents, and sharing them with our Veterans at the JP Front Lobby. Veterans, Visitors and employees really enjoyed the musical entertainment you provided for us yesterday. It is through the efforts of community partners like you that allow us to continue the quality care and services that we seek to provide our deserving Veterans. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you again for future events. Thank you so much for your support and friendship!"
Where Art is Taught as a Life Skill!
Relationships, the key to making things happen! Through the non-profit organization Arts Talks and Kai Liu, a jazz pianist and former teacher of some of my current students at Berklee College of music, I was able to spend some time with the students at BN Vocational School in Beijing, China.
Kai is an exceptional person and teacher with whom I have much in common, one aspect being the desire to give back and inspire others to do the same.
Kai teaches music as a volunteer at this school and upon Arts Talks request for a collaboration, a time was scheduled to introduce myself to Kai's students. We discussed the importance of black gospel music’s singing and dancing. What an exciting, quick to learn, creative, and sincere, group!!!
There’s nothing like music to make someone feel at home
Giving back to less fortunate neighbors in our community will always equal receiving more back.
The KHP had the privilege to perform in November 2016 for the guests of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, and on Valentine's Day 2017 for the guests of Rosie's Place, a women’s shelter. Those in the crowd were humming along, tapping their feet, bopping their heads, smiling, and evening dancing!
Homelessness is one of many challenges that the majority of us do not encounter, however the gift of music can lessen these pains. “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” -Edgar Degas.
Nothing like art to unite and fortify humanity.
"Play by Ear"
In March of 2016, I took the opportunity to collaborate with bassist Piotr Rodowicz at the Laski School for the Blind. I consider it an honor to perform and teach the influence of one of America's greatest exports, jazz music! And an even more profound experience was the time we had to share our thoughts on the importance of positive creativity throughout our world. To me, these talented students symbolize a courageous expression that can inspire us all.
Check out the workshop here
"Strong roots tall trees" in South Africa
During an engagement in South Africa in January 2016, I have had the pleasure to meet and collaborate with Prof. Karendra Devroop, the Artistic Director for Unisa Music Competitions. Karendra, like me, has a deep desire to leverage music as an encouragement to less privileged youth to reach for their inner potential. Music is challenging, but also quite rewarding for these children. He helped me in organizing a visit to the "Pretoria Kingdom Life Children Orphanage Center" where I was able to listen to, compose with, and discuss important aspects of music with the youth at this center. We all had an amazing time!
Check out one of our compositions here
A Call to Justice
At the 2015 Panama jazz festival, drummer Richie Barshay and I decided to encourage Panamanian artists at the Festival by asking them to join us on stage during one of the KHP’s performances at Danilo’s jazz club.
Particularly affected by the increasing police brutality events in the US in 2014, I sought to address the topic of injustice in today’s global society. With this in mind and heart, Panamanian poet Jose Porté read powerfully, Panamanian alto saxophonist Samuel Batista played passionately, and Panamanian vocalist Jackeline Magallon sang beautifully.
Collaborating with NYC based "Music Is my First language"
Music is My First Language is an organization with the vision to inspire global social change through music education, collaboration, and cultural exchange.
The idea that no matter what culture, economic background, or beliefs you have, music is the thread that ties us all together. Whether you can understand the words or not, what music can make you feel is a language in and of itself.
Music Is My First Language's missoion is to provide sustainable music education programming for any kid who wants to learn, encouraging every one to “find their song”.
Jazz has its Benefits
UNESCO Artist for Peace Danilo Pérez and his wife, Panama Jazz Festival Director Patricia Zarate, attended the Kevin Harris Project’s concert at the Lily Pad in Cambridge on Sunday night.
The evening benefited the Danilo Pérez Foundation, which brings music education to kids in need in Panama.
Cambridge Friends School Jazz Band
With limited rehearsal time of one and a half hours per week, the Cambridge Friends School jazz band (a 14 piece ensemble) focuses on theory, improvisation, composition, reading, and performance etiquette.
As a result of their hard work and my availability to volunteer many hours outside of the classroom, the jazz band has had the chance to play in difference events, among which:
- perform for guest speaker Marshall Ganz, Senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University,
- entertain the residents of Cadbury Commons,
- "rockin' out" at morning assemblies,
- record 3 pieces in a professional recording studio
Many thanks to...
Jazz band parents who have provided excellent support, suggestions, transportation, and practice updates/Leslie Shelman for overseeing the T-shirt production; Matt McArthur and Josh Alba at the "Record Company" who not only specialize in wonderful engineering but also patiently explained what the process means; Marytha Paffrath for overseeing and supporting the music programs at CFS; Luisa Harris for video recording. And my groovy CFS jazz band for being the hippest middle school jazz band on the planet!
Rebecca Grossman, Alto Sax | Olivia Gardner-Parlow, Trumpet | A.J. Bauer, Trumpet | Gabe Strasburger, Clarinet | Jacob Abrams, Keys | Ben Rosand, Keys | Max Hardcastle, Keys | Sam Wachman, Keys | Jacob Kiely-Song, Guitar | Sarah Pollock, Guitar | Andrew Boron, Bass Guitar | Carlo Cremonini, Drums | Sara Curtis, Flute
A Gutsy Saxophonist
My wife (Luisa) and I have also been fortunate to observe and assist Danilo Perez and Patricia Zarate in the continued growth of "La Fundacion Danilo Perez". This year, we "musically adopted" Oliver, a truly courageous and talented kid!!!
Oliver has now his own brand new saxophone along with an Apple IPod to discover a lot of new music. I am also able to hold skype classes with Oliver and other kids at the Fundacion Danilo Perez as part of their learning broadening.
Virtuosos in the Making — Striving for Excellence
At the 2012 Panama Jazz Festival we met many talented young musicians. We also met a very passionate, knowledable, and giving educator Edna Golandsky, who instructs instrumentalists in the art of coordinate movement, giving them the tools to realize their highest potential as performing artists. We decided to sponsor two among many of the talented and dedicated students that attended Edna's classes.
They were given the opportunity to travel to the US and spend a week at Princeton University and attend the Golandsky Summer Symposium.
Bianca Pereira and Catherine Hernandez who we sponsored, along with 2 other students sponsored by the Danilo Perez Foundation, Luis and Isai could have not been any more thrilled to have been given this opportunity and all four have committed to give back to those around you. Stay tuned and we’ll let you know the outcome of their plan.
The future of Jazz Programming at WGBH
In June 2012, a local radio station, WGBH, made the decision to cut jazz programs that have been on the air for a long time. These programs showcased primarily local artists, as well as world renown and emerging national and international artists. Bostonians, especially through the work of JazzBoston, a local organization, have expressed to WGBH their discontent and their willingness to find ways to re-instate these programs.
This is my note to them:
"Dear Eric and Steve,
On behalf of the local, national, and international communities that have thoroughly enjoyed one of America’s most inspiring jazz radio programming, we thank you.
In viewing the mountainous outcry of facebook messages in response to your job cuts, I sympathize with the thread of surprise, anger, and confusion. I can only imagine how you feel.
My admittedly naive hope remains that the management of WGBH radio station will reconsider its course of action. After all, the station proudly operates under a self-label of "arts and culture". Jazz is the metaphorical tree trunk from which many other national and international art forms off shoot. Chopping at the root of an American oak may garner more revune for WGBH but does not do much for the future of an art that every American can proudly claim to be his or her own.
When John Doe, a curious listener from across the Pacific ocean and Jane Doe from across the Charles River turn their radio dials to Boston's WGBH (Arts and Culture station) in search of an informative jazz program only to discover that it's presentation of the arts does not align with an obvious desire to compete with talk radio, I not only lament for Steve and Eric, but also lament the predictable future of programming to come. I further lament John and Jane Doe turning their dials past WGBH, past WBUR, and perhaps just turning their radio off.
Is there a WGBH contradiction between motto and deed? If becoming a more accessible talk show means reaching a wider audience of listeners and more listeners equates more funding for a radio station then the question that we, the jazz and arts community ask ourselves and the decision makers at WGBH radio station is this: With each decision to trim arts content from your station, to what capacity does this recent decision advance the awareness of culture, arts, historical understanding, and ultimately the character of "radio individuality" in Boston? Perhaps it is time for WGBH to change its motto to one that rivals other stations who's management cut and cram arts programming into the last 10 minutes of each hour and the last few days of the week and yet still seem to stand under an umbrella that reads "Arts and Culture" Station.
WGBH upper management, please consider the momentum of the decisions you are making. In order to compete, should radio blend in and adapt in order to achieve a Darwinian survival or do we simultaneously take a stand and stand out like our artistic and cultural heroes have done. Each one of us cherishes the hero that defies the norm. I hope it's not to naive to ask if you'll be that hero WGBH. In the future, how much more generalized and "accessible" must radio become to remain competitive? When WGBH talk shows start to feel the same competitive pinch from even more "accessible" talk shows, how much more will the lack of individuality augment? Could Callie Crossley be fired and could Emily Rooney be put on weekends? What does history tell us about the natural evolution of the institution that seeks to maintain popularity instead of individuality? Yes it survives and thrives, but to what cost to itself and society?
Eric and Steve, you have carried and will continue to carry a torch that has kept our minds open with a flame that will never be snuffed out. It hurts and scares us when important institutions like WBGH who are responsible for not only carrying but protecting such a flame... do not. These are delicate times for radio, live music, music education, dance, visual arts, and so forth. Many courageous decisions need to be made so that the Eric Jackson and Steve Schwartz of our community can continue to carry the brilliant flames that keep us culturally and artistically aware of where we have been and where we are going.
Eric and Steve we love you, we stand by you, and we are ready to show our support in action."