I know that Boston is a small market, and everyone in the Merrimack Valley seems to have far less than 6 degrees of separation, but this assignment was different. I was sent to photograph a musical family with roots in Newburyport, MA, but as I found out more I realized that that the grandfather in this three-generation musical family, was a teacher of mine at Berklee College of Music 35 years ago! Les Harris Sr. was one of my favorite teachers at Berklee. He was always approachable, a very real person, no pretense or aura. Just a very talented and accomplished musician who was very ready and willing to help his students. His son, Les Jr., an excellent percussionist in his own right, lives in Exeter, NH, where I grew up, and teaches at Philips Exeter. Les Jr.'s daughter, Aubrey, is an incredibly talented bass player and singer, whom I had the pleasure of hearing as they rehearsed during our photoshoot.
As Les Jr. and I got to know each other that day, I realized that he works with a couple of guys who I knew growing up. One who was in a band with me in high school and the other who used to live a mile from my childhood home and who my mother would babysit. If these coincidences weren't enough, on the way to Portsmouth, I heard Sergio Mendes' cover of "Fool on the Hill" on the radio. As I listened I remembered that Les Sr. had used that recording in class for what we used to call doing a "record copy", an ear training exercise where you literally transcribe exactly what you hear, note for note. We used to wear out a lot of cassette players that way!
Check out the Harris family in this month's Merrimack Valley Magazine as well as Les Jr.'s and Aubrey's web sites. Also take a listen to Aubrey and some other amazing high school musicians perform with Keith Urban here!