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Music teacher Paul Harris likes freedom of expression that jazz provides

Paul Harris, music teacher at Stephenville Middle School, poses for a photo in his music room.
Paul Harris, music teacher at Stephenville Middle School, poses for a photo in his music room. - Frank Gale

Paul Harris enjoys living in a community where there is a tremendous amount of music going on.

The music and band teacher at Stephenville Middle School was referring to the Bay St. George area in an interview on Thursday at noon hour.

He is the drummer for West Coast Jazz Sextet that will be doing a public performance at the Stephenville Arts and Culture Centre on Saturday at 8 p.m. as part of the Stephenville Winter Jazz Fest.

Harris said their sextet will be playing mostly jazz standards from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, along with some post Bee-Bop tunes from John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter.

“I think we’re filling a gap where jazz was kind of missing here in Western Newfoundland,” he said.

On the organizational front, Harris sought out the musicians to form this group, which played at Gitanos Restaurant and the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook and Clancy’s Pub in Stephenville. The group is open to future performances in new venues.

Originally from Labrador City, Harris got involved in music as an adolescent with his older brother David – who played guitar. They played in bands in their teen years and that’s when he got interested in jazz.

He tips his hat to his own high school band teacher Jim Cooper, who he said basically not only inspired his students greatly in music but opened them up to the different styles of jazz, classical, pop and rock.

After studying music at St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish, NS, Harris first returned to Labrador and taught music in Wabush, then in the fall of 2006 landed the position he’s currently in where he’s teaching Grades 6-8.

He sees a lot of musical talent in the Bay St. George area, especially in the areas of traditional and indigenous, with the latter becoming more common.

Harris said band programs in the community have always been strongly supported and there are a lot of talented young people who come through those programs.

His job is a big part of his life and outside of it he tries to play live music for great enjoyment and has been doing that with musicians in Stephenville and Corner Brook in different styles since his arrival to the area.

“Different styles have different things I appreciate and jazz has that freedom of expression I really like, in addition to the element of group interplay,” Harris said.

He said it’s great to be with fellow musicians who are very experienced in this genre.

Harris said this is the second annual Stephenville Winter Jazz Fest and his group is delighted to have been asked to participate again this year.

His wife Laura Harris is also involved in music as she plays piano and sings and their love of it seems to have been passed on to their children as Ben, who is in Grade 9, is a pianist and trombonist; while Maya, who is in Grade 6, is a singer and plays the clarinet.

West Coast Jazz Sextet members:

Nelson White (guitar and vocals)

Howard Larade (trumpet and flugelhorn)

Paul Harris (drums)

Age (Aga) E. Smies (clarinet and tenor saxophone)

Scott Sheppard (bass)

Kevin Carey (sax)

Source: Paul Harris

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