James Harman was one of the first to graduate from MSA’s fledgling music program in 2008, but it’s an experience he credits with preparing him to become a successful, professional musician. He has since served as a visiting teaching artist off and on over the past five years.
Now, he’s thrilled that fundraising by the MSA Foundation made it possible for him to return to his Alma mater as the MSA Rock Band Teaching Artist, replacing Rhian Robinson, who has taken over as MSA Office Manager.
“It’s wonderful to be in an environment where kids are learning to get excited about music. And I’m learning about the different kinds of music kids are listening to and it’s really fun to be around that,” Harman said.
“If we are having a hard time with a part in a song, he’ll come in, listen to it once and be able to play it perfectly so we know how it’s supposed to go,” —MSA Rock Band Student.
While Harman enjoys working with teacher Ari Gorman with the two MSA Rock Band classes, he is also a successful guitarist who fills out his career with solo to big band gigs, teaching, writing, studio sessions and as a music director for several musicals. He released his debut album, Wanderlust in 2014 and showcases his solo project, the James Harman Band, around the Bay Area. His new album comes out in November 2016.
For Rhian Robinson, Harman’s musical experience is only part of the reason that he was her first choice to take over the program she helped run for four years.
“He’s a brilliant guitar player – he’ll hear a song and be able to pick up his guitar and play it back immediately with no problem. And he’s really great with the students, they really look up to him,” Robinson said, describing his musical style as a fusion of Rock, Blues, Funk and Jazz that appeals to those with varied musical tastes.
With a quiet, laid back manner, Harman is clearly in tune with his students. While quietly listening to his third period band work their way through a Jackson 5 song, Harman offers precise tips for each band member to consider for improving their part. And the musicians clearly respect his advice.
“He’s incredible. If we are having a hard time with a part in a song, he’ll come in, listen to it once and be able to play it perfectly so we know how it’s supposed to go, “ one guitarist recently shared.
When he’s not working with MSA students on campus, Harman can be found performing almost every night of the week somewhere in the Bay Area, whether it’s at a club in San Francisco, a private party in the East Bay or recording with one of his bands.
Want to hear more? It just so happens that James Harman will perform with Natalie Smith this Friday, September 16, at Rickey’s Restaurant at Inn Marin. It’s a perfect match as Rickey’s is an MSA Community Partner offering financial support to MSA through its Community Partner program.
If you haven’t already gotten your “Rickey’s Card” please have your student drop by the MSA office to get one for you! Present your card when dining at Rickey’s and a portion of the proceeds from your meal will be donated to MSA.
Find out more about James Harman’s music and his upcoming performances on his website: jamesharmanmusic.com