Golden Gate Grooves #17: The Golden Gate Blues Society Newsletter

By Julie Jenkins

Anne Harris was born and raised in Yellow Springs, a small college town in southwestern Ohio, in a house full of music.

“My parents love music and my Dad even played violin for a short time as a boy. When I was growing up, he always prided himself on having a really good stereo system complete with a Heathkit tuner he put together himself. He had a big vinyl collection that was pretty eclectic. He loved jazz, classical, pop, gospel, opera, and country, among other things, and my mother loved musical theater. So they would swing from Mahalia Jackson to "Camelot" to Tchaikovsky to Ray Charles all in an afternoon.

When she was all of 3 years old, her mother took her to see Fiddler on the Roof, and it was at that young age that she became enchanted with the violin.

“In the opening sequence, Isaac Stern is shown in silhouette on a rooftop playing violin and she said I just pointed to the screen and told her, ‘That's what I want to do.’ I kept bugging her about it until she realized I was serious and I began formal studies with a teacher around age 8. I studied classical all the way up to college and sat first chair in the orchestra and played in a trio. I remember that, early on, one of my violin student teachers gave me my own vinyl copy of Vivaldi's Four Seasons because I had just begun working on one of the movements. It was one of the first records I ever owned and I remember playing it over and over and getting lost in its journey. And then, quite a few years later in middle school, I was scouring my Dad's collection for something I hadn't listened to and I found a copy of Stevie Wonder's Innervision. That completely rocked my universe to the core and from that point forth I began to hear pop music totally differently. I just about wore the grooves off that one.”

From that point on, she began exploring music and inviting a bit of anything that moved her into her life.

“My musical tastes have always been pretty broad and through the years, they just continue to expand. I listen to a wide range of artists. As far as blues goes, John Lee Hooker, R.L. Burnside, Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples, Ruthie Foster, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Corey Harris, and Markus James are a few favorites. Other artists I love are Gary Clark Jr., Cassandra Wilson, Meshell N'Degeocello, Prince, Tinariwen, and TV on the Radio.”

Her main influences, however, are not famous musicians.

“My heroes, I would have to say, are my parents. Looking at the time in history in which they grew up and the challenges they faced, is very humbling to me. And they have never stopped their quest for knowledge and expansion. They are two of the most well read, intelligent, compassionate, and articulate people I know.”

Family is sacred to her and time spent with them is paramount in her life when she is not performing.

“My spare time belongs to my daughter and husband. My family is my true gift and blessing and I wouldn't be able to do what I do without their support and grounding.”

The beauty of Anne’s ability to play the violin while dancing as gracefully as a swan and as powerfully as a shaman, moved me to joyful tears. Bearing witness to her performance left me completely awestruck and mesmerized. At times, she moves with a gentle ease, and then with sudden and wild abandon. Surely, it follows suit that she has had extensive training, but it appears to just spring naturally from her solar plexus. To watch her perform is hypnotizing. It was pretty much all I could talk about for several days.

“I love dance and the language of body movement. I had an ear on my radio and my older sister's record collection. I began soaking in the funk, pop, rock, and dance music, especially R&B and funk. That was where I could feel the pulse of my heart because rhythm impacted me on a cellular level and I could express this through dance. I studied ballet, modern jazz, and African dance. And though I never approached it with the mindset of doing it professionally, it's always been an important emotional expression for me. I feel I have the soul of a dancer, and when I'm dancing, I tap into a space of great joy.”

I asked Anne to leave us with one final thought and, of course, it was as alluring and boundless as the creativity within Anne herself.

“The beautiful thing about music is it is infinite in all ways, so the journey of discovery is limitless.”