Jazz Pros Share Talents and Techniques with Young Musicians at Annual Greater Newburyport Student Festival

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For Newburyport High School Band Director Joe Nuccio, it was jazz recording artists Stan Kenton and Buddy Rich who made the biggest impression.

For drummer and Newburyport High grad Les Harris Jr., it was his father and namesake, a noted jazz drummer himself, who was his foremost inspiration.

Most every musician say they had someone growing up whose talents they admired and aspired to duplicate.

“We always learn from the people who have gone before us," Nuccio said. “Although you can learn notes and rhythms, the nuts and bolts of it, to get the real feel for it, you do that a lot better by listening to the pros."

That's the philosophy behind the annual Greater Newburyport Student Jazz Festival, which brings area students together with professional musicians for a day of workshops, concerts and mentoring.

This year's event -- set for Tuesday, March 25, at Newburyport High School -- will feature the jazz bands from Newburyport, Amesbury, Pentucket Regional, Triton Regional and Ipswich high schools as well as Rupert A. Nock Middle School in Newburyport.

As part of this year's festival, Harris, who teaches drums at Amesbury Middle School as well as at Phillips Exeter and the college level, has assembled a jazz combo of his musician colleagues to perform for and work with the area students.

“This is an opportunity for me to give back," Harris said. “A lot of the older musicians I had around me, they shared their knowledge with me. That's not something you can get in school, being around musicians like this."

Harris inherited the desire to teach and mentor aspiring musicians from his father, Les Harris Sr., a retired Berklee College of Music professor who lives in Newburyport.

It was Les Harris Sr. who was responsible for getting drumsticks into his son's hands by the age of 2 or 3. By age 11, Les Harris Jr. was sitting in on gigs with his dad, and by the time he was 15, he had his first steady weekly gig with pianist/vocalist Annie Bosteels.

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