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Classical 101

The Donald Harris Archives at OSU

The Ohio State University archives on Kenny Road is home to many treasures, including music by Dr. Donald Harris.

"Dr. Donald Harris is Professor Emeritus in the OSU School of Music, and an internationally recognized composer. He served as Dean of the College of the Arts from 1988-1997.  Dr. Harris was awarded the School of Music's Distinguished Service Award on two occasions, and his many contributions to the arts on campus, throughout the Central Ohio community, and on a national and international stage, have earned him the unique and enviable reputation as the consummate "Citizen of the Arts.'"

from a Memo to the OSU President's Cabinet, June 15, 2015:

I'm here to tell those who don't already know, that Donald Harris, who ran both the New England Conservatory and the Hartt College of Music, and who served the U.S. Information Agency as Chief Music Officer in Paris for thirteen years, has been to me and to many a generous mentor and friend. I"m proud to direct anyone who loves music, and who wants to know more (and more!) about music and culture in the 20th century, to the Donald Harris Collection in the Ohio State University Archives at 2700 Kenny Road.

Credit WOSU
Donald Harris


In over forty boxes we have Donald's extensive correspondence with composers: Elliott Carter, George Perle, Lukas Foss, Ned Rorem,  Gunther Schuller and Donald Martino among them. We have Donald's correspondence with performing artists: Meredith Monk, Yehudi Menuhin,  Louis Krasner, Rudolf Serkin and Isaac Stern. Not forgetting the great artists, teachers and personalities: Nadia Boulanger, Doda Conrad and John Kirkpatrick.

I'vebeen lucky over the years to visit with Donald and hear his warm memories of these creative artists and many more.  Over lunch the other day I asked Donald about a few of my favorites who he knew well, Virgil Thomson, Francis Poulenc and even Alice B. Toklas. "But I saw them a lot",  he told me. "We didn't need to write."

I've said before that I was a 12-year old taking piano lessons at the New England Conservatory when Donald Harris was Executive VP of that awesome school on Huntington Avenue. Who knows? We may havestood together at thestatute of Beethoven in thelobby used to park used up gum on his foot-- Beethoven's not Donald's. I knew who Donald Harris was even then. His music was being performed throughout Boston, especially by the Boston Musica Viva and by conductor Richard Pittman. Just to show you I was well brought up, I always referred to "Dr. Harris" until I was emphatically told to use Donald after my 50th birthday!

Ohio State is preparing more honors for Donald Harris. The best tribute I can pay is to cherish his friendship, study music-- all music-- visit the archives and count myself lucky. For all of us, a trip to The OSU Archives at 2700 Kenny Rd. is a worthwhile journey. Get moving!

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.