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Robert A. Harris

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Information about Robert A. Harris

Profile image of Robert A. Harris

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Conductor
Music Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Seafood
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
United Kingdom
Favorite Quote:
It's Better to Have It and Not Need It Than to Need It and Not Have It.

Birthplace

Born:
1/9/1938
Birth Location:
Detroit, Michigan

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
EducationMakers
Occupation(s):
Conductor
Music Professor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Seafood
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
United Kingdom
Favorite Quote:
It's Better to Have It and Not Need It Than to Need It and Not Have It.

Birthplace

Born:
1/9/1938
Birth Location:
Detroit
See how Robert A. Harris is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Music professor and conductor Robert A. Harris was born on January 9, 1938 in Detroit, Michigan. His father, Major Harris, was a factory worker; his mother, Rusha Harris, a homemaker. Harris attended Sherrill Elementary and graduated from Charles Chadsey High School in 1956. He studied at Wayne State University where he earned his B.A. degree in music education in 1960 and his M.A. degree in music on 1962. Harris briefly attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and then received his Ph.D. degree in composition and theory from Michigan State University in 1971. He also completed post-doctoral work at Aspen Music School in 1973 and 1974.

In 1960, Harris was hired as a music teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. He was then appointed as an assistant professor of music at Wayne State University. Harris became Director of Choral Activities at Michigan State University in 1964, and then joined the faculty of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music as professor of conducting and director of choral organizations in 1977. He has also served as a visiting professor at Wayne State University, the University of Texas, and the University of South Africa in Pretoria. In 2012, Harris retired as professor emeritus at Northwestern University. Harris has appeared as a conductor, choral clinician and adjudicator throughout the United States and in the Republic of China where he served as one of two guest conductors/clinicians for the Taipei Philharmonic Choral and Conducting Workshop. His international performances also include South Korea as the guest conductor for the Inchon City Chorale, and Hong Kong as a guest conductor of a Choral Festival Youth Chorale. As an international music instructor, Harris has presented master classes, workshops, and lectures on conducting in South Africa, as well as presenting lectures and master classes on African American spirituals in Argentina.

Harris served as a member and co-chair of the Choral Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. Harris is associated with a number of professional and honorary organizations, including the American Choral Directors Association, the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP), Chorus America, Pi Kappa Lambda National Honor Music Society and Phi Mu Alpha Professional Music Fraternity.

Harris has received several awards and honors, including the Wayne State University “Alumni Arts Achievement Award in Music,” the Northwestern University School of Music “Faculty Exemplar Teaching Award,” and the Northwestern University Alumni Association “Excellence in Teaching Award.” As a composer, Harris has been the recipient of over forty commissions from various schools, churches and musical organizations. His compositions, especially those of the choral genre, have been performed throughout the United States, Europe and South Africa. A number of his compositions have been published.

Robert A. Harris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 25, 2013.

See how Robert A. Harris is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert A. Harris' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about his adoptive father's, Major Lee Harris', first name
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris talks about his adoptive parents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his biological father and being adopted by his aunt and uncle
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris describes his early exposure to the Baptist and Methodist churches
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris lists his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris describes his childhood neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robert A. Harris describes his exposure to jazz and bebop music as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris recalls attending shows at the Paradise Theater and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris talks about his music education and instructors at Sherrill Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris talks about his extracurricular activities at Chadsey High School in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about his maternal uncle
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris talks about black history organizations and clubs in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his mentors at Chadsey High School in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris remembers collecting classical music records and receiving a gift from a choir director as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris explains the history of African American spirituals
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris talks about sacred anthems and oratorios
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris talks about Leonard Bernstein's influence on his classical music interest
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Robert A. Harris recalls listening to jazz pianist, Alice Coltrane
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris describes an experience of racial stereotyping by a teacher at Sherrill Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris talks about his college preparatory curriculum at Chadsey High School in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris talks about his decision to study music in college and his first conducting experience
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about his decision to attend Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris describes integrating a Detroit, Michigan restaurant and a Washington D.C. hotel pool
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his mentors at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris talks about his music education curriculum at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris talks about teaching in the Detroit Public Schools while studying for his Master's degree at Wayne State University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris recalls his decision to join the faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris talks about his Master's thesis on 1920s African American classically trained musicians and hearing Paul Robeson sing in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris talks about teaching at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris talks about black music ensembles in Detroit, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris recalls his decision to stop his doctorate studies at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about earning his Ph.D. and teaching at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris talks about composing choral music and meeting Eva Jessye
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about joining the faculty of Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music in 1977
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris talks about the differences between Michigan State University and Northwestern University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris talks about the students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris talks about the music faculty at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris talks about teaching conducting at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris describes the role of the conductor
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris describes his conducting philosophy and conducting 'Not In Our Time' by Richard Blackford
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris talks about preparing for a performance and explains how a musical composition translates into a performance
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris talks about black composers and conductors in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his own compositions
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris talks about writing for choral ensembles and solo vocalists
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris talks about classical church music in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris talks about former students
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Robert A. Harris talks about conducting internationally and in New York City
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris talks about musical collaborations
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert A. Harris talks about the Winnetka Congregational Church in Winnetka, Illinois
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert A. Harris describes his dream choral ensemble
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert A. Harris talks about retirement
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert A. Harris reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert A. Harris talks about his satisfaction with his life and career
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert A. Harris describes his hopes for the African American community
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Robert A. Harris talks about his family
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Robert A. Harris describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert A. Harris narrates his photographs