The rock musician -- Jarred Harris

Friday, January 13, 2006
Jarred Harris

Jarred Harris is in the business of the bass clef, but he's a high note for local music.

The 19-year-old bassist will have been with the band Fists of Phoenix for two years in March. He's also majoring in instrumental performance at Southeast and is passionate and driven when it comes to performing music in front of people.

"Once you get the bug, you pretty much always have the bug," Harris said.

He got the bug the day in grade school when the music teacher from the high school came, gave a music test and asked who wanted to play what instrument. It day was a big day for him.

"I saw the upright bass and I knew it," he said. "It was like love at first sight. Then the orchestra teacher played the theme from 'Jaws' on it and I was like, aw, man! That's when I knew I loved that low bass and that I had to play it."

Between gigs with Fists of Phoenix, Harris plays the upright bass in the Southeast Symphonic Orchestra. He explains that playing in both the rock band and the orchestra can be kind of a schizophrenic experience.

"To go from dirty rocker to wearing a tux and playing in a symphony is like switching personalities," he said. "With Fists of Phoenix, I go up on stage, play my electric bass and it's all about having a good time. I do whatever I like. In the symphonic orchestra, I have to think about rhythms, notes, rests, breath holds -- we practice so much. When I get out there, it's a whole different experience."

Despite their differences, Harris loves them both, although he finds the symphonic stuff more challenging. He also said he wants to be respected as a musician and thinks that's more likely with the orchestra.

"With the symphonic orchestra, I think I'll get that respect," he said. "With a band, nobody except your friends really cares until your name's flashing on MTV."

But that doesn't reflect in his Fists of Phoenix performances. On stage, Harris tries his best to make sure everybody's having a good time. Perpetually laid back and intensely cool, he is beloved by his bandmates and Fists of Phoenix's (mostly white) fans alike, but some of his early shows attest to the racial divide that still exists in the region. He recalls playing with a previous band in Southern Illinois.

"At first, I didn't really know those guys or those places, and a lot of times I'd just stay in the vehicle before we were supposed to play," he said. "I'd just read a book or something."

Harris said confidently that his fellow Fist of Phoenix rockers have his back. It turned out that his former bandmates had it, too, when they and the crowd chased a motorist who shouted a racist remark at him prior to an outdoor gig.

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