Keyboards, Bon Jovi, and a career in the arts

Jamie Harris recalls discovering the piano at age 9, and discusses his journey into music and the arts from there.

“Yikes!” That was my first reaction when sitting down trying to record my journey and career within the arts to date, there’s just so much to talk about. First and foremost, I am a pianist and music teacher but I also work with Arts at the University of Southampton which has prompted a well-rounded interest in all things creative.

If we’re going to go right back to the beginning, then we need to go back to a 9-year-old me (15 years ago, for those who want to work out my age). I was trundling past a music shop on the high street when I was stopped in my tracks by the sound of a piano expertly navigated by a 90-year-old man Freddy, playing the St Louis Blues if I remember rightly. I was fascinated by the sound and quickly abandoned my Mum on the high street and made for the piano, learning my first tune with Freddy’s expert tutelage – O When The Saints, appropriately enough for a Sotonite of six years!

The proprietor of the shop informed me he taught the piano, so my Mum bought a little keyboard (thanks Mum) with one of those ridiculously rickety stands that makes you feel like you’re at sea whilst playing. After a thousand presses of the “DJ” mode, playing inappropriate little tunes to outrageous techno beats, and learning such enduring classics such as Always by Bon Jovi, Your Song by Elton John and Angels by Robbie Williams: I ended up becoming a classical pianist and music teacher (and occasional harpsichordist for those that know what that is). Quite bizarre!

For those that are settling in for my life story or those ready to close this window due to a lack of interest in said life story fear not, I’m skipping ahead some.

From those humble and slightly embarrassing musical beginnings, I was fortunate enough to earn a place studying music at the University of Southampton and begin to immerse myself in the musical landscape of the city. After graduating in 2014 I began working with the music department as part of the administrative team, and then with Turner Sims, where I worked as the concert hall’s administrator working directly with the variety of international artists performing at the concert hall. My affiliation with the University continued when Louise Coysh, Associate Director of Arts and Culture, brought me into Arts at University of Southampton as a marketing officer. As it has just launched in October 2016 when I joined, I was thrown into establishing our social media and communications channels, setting up the Arts blog, developing the web presence and coordinating our presence various on-the-ground events from Freshers Fayre to Open Days and all sorts in between!

Whilst doing all of this, I work as freelance pianist and teacher of music, teaching children in their homes, accompanying local choirs and musicians and performing as a solo and ensemble recitalist throughout the South.

It just goes to show how a simple curiosity or interest in a creative endeavour can provide you with so many skills and opportunities. We hope that Arts Ambassadors, the new pilot voluntary scheme launched by Arts at University of Southampton can start you off on an exciting journey and enhance your career and life prospects, providing you with new skills, interests and contacts along the way. Musical performances of Bon Jovi are optional…

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Arts at University of Southampton

Whether you’re a student, staff or from our wider community, there are plenty of exciting cultural opportunities for everyone through Arts at University of Southampton.

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