Herbert Lee Edwards Harris

 1934 -

Herbert Harris, organist and pianist, has performed as a church musician for nearly sixty years. He has also served as a teacher and school administrator for most of those years, teaching music and other subjects.

Herbert was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the older of two children of Robert and Pearl Edwards Harris. His mother was a public school teacher who taught for 41 years and also a pianist who, after listening to him play piano by ear as a child, arranged for him to start piano lessons at age nine.

Five years later he started organ lessons at Dillard University in New Orleans, and six months later he enrolled at Oakwood College Academy in Alabama, where he continued organ lessons under Inez Lang Booth for the next three years. Beginning in his sophomore and continuing through his senior year, he played for worship services at the college, now university.

Following his 1952 graduation from OCA as valedictorian, a distinction he had also enjoyed when he graduated from eighth grade in the large SDA church school in New Orleans, he took some summer classes at Xavier University in New Orleans. That fall he enrolled at Union College, where he studied with Richard Randolf for two years.

After a summer taking a class in piano literature at New York University and lessons in piano and organ at the New York College of music, he transferred to Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, for a year. He then enrolled at La Sierra College, now University, where he graduated with an A.B. in theology and music in 1957. He studied organ at LSC under Harold B. Hannum, who was also his major professor. He presented his senior recital in the La Sierra Church.

Harris completed an M.A. in applied theology in 1958 at the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary in Takoma Park, Maryland, now the Andrews University Theological Seminary in Michigan. During his year in the Washington, D.C., area he studied organ at the Washington Cathedral under Paul Callaway, at that time music chairman of organ studies at Peabody Conservatory of Music. He also served as organist at the Second Baptist Church in Washington, became a member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO), and assisted in local evangelistic meetings.

He started his career as a teacher and principal at the Seventh-day Adventist church school at Kansas City, Missouri, also serving as a musician in evangelistic meetings. During his three years there he also started and led a children's choir in the church school and served as minister of music in the church, where he formed a choir and conducted and accompanied on the organ a performance of the Messiah.

He continued organ study under noted teacher and performer Edna Scotten Billings at the Episcopal Cathedral in Kansas City. He gave the opening prelude concert for the 1959 Midwest Organists Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, and another solo recital later that year at the cathedral.

In 1961 Harris accepted a position as a church school teacher and principal in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he taught for two years before taking a leave of absence to teach in that city's public school system. During his 49 years in that system he completed a master's degree in school administration and supervision in 1967 at Butler University in Indianapolis and has held many positions.

He has taught sixth grade and elementary school music and served as assistant principal at the elementary level for many of those years, He was city-wide curriculum consultant for three years, and served as instructional coordinator for math in the elementary system, an appointment made because of the success of his students in that subject.

For the last eighteen years he has been involved in Adult Education, teaching at Martin University for the Indianapolis Public School System. He has done graduate study in adult education, taking classes at the University of Chicago and the State University of New York at Albany.

Harris completed an M.Mus. in organ performance at Butler University in 1970, studying organ with Mallory W. Bransford. He played his master's recital at the Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ. In 1977 he was invited to perform as a soloist with the Butler University orchestra, where he played the Poulenc Concerto in g minor for Organ and a concerto by Handel in a concert at the Linwood Christian Church in Indianapolis. It was an honor he recalls as the highlight of his musical career.

In reflecting on his organ study, Harris was hesitant to single out any one teacher as the most inspiring, since each one had contributed in a multi-dimensional way to his evolution and growth as an organist and musician. Two of those teachers, Paul Callaway and Mallory W. Bransford, had been pupils of Marcel Dupré, foremost French organ virtuoso and composer of his time.

He has pursued additional educational experiences throughout his career, attending summer sessions, seminars, and workshops at over twenty universities and colleges in his quest for increased knowledge, improved skills, and other certifications. In addition to being licensed to teach at both the elementary and secondary levels and to serve as an administrator and supervisor, he is also certified to teach music and reading K-12, as well as English, U.S. and world history in grades 7-12.

For over three decades Harris has been involved with music at the Seventh-day Adventist Glendale Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, serving primarily as organist but also at times as the choir director, as a member of the music and other committees, and presently as church elder. In 1987 he gave the dedicatory recital for the new organ at Glendale. Prior to his work there he was minister of music and choir director at the SDA Capital Avenue (City) Church in Indianapolis for sixteen years.

He has served as organist for SDA camp meetings held in Cicero, Indiana, for over thirty years and was one of the organists for the 1990 SDA General Conference Session held in Indianapolis. In his nearly sixty years as an organist he has served as organist, organist/choirmaster, or organist/ director in church services at Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist, and Christian Scientist churches, as well as at a community church. While serving in the Linwood Christian Church, he gave the dedicatory recital for its refurbished pipe organ in 1976. He is presently serving as organist for the First Baptist Church in Anderson, Indiana.

Harris married Juanita Mae Brown, a lyric soprano, in 1960 and they have one daughter, Sheila, a violinist and graduate of the Indiana University School of Music in performance and music education. Juanita was active in the Second Presbyterian Church choir in Indianapolis, a group that toured three times in Europe, performing in noted cathedrals during the ten years she was a member.

The Harrises have frequently given joint recitals with their daughter who now resides in Europe with her husband Graham Wheeler, an administrator and teacher at a private school in England. They have three grandchildren who were all taught violin by their mother. The oldest child, Heather is also a pianist as is the youngest child, Adam. The younger daughter, Michell, also plays guitar.


Sources: Interviews with Herbert Harris, June and July 2012; Central Union Reaper, 11 May 1954, 3; 28 July 1959, 4; 29 September 1959,3; NAD Committee on Administration Minutes, 15 June 1961, 61-53; Lake Union Herald, 18 February 1964, 8; 30 June 1987, 18; 1 February 2009, Other online sources.