Faculty Spotlight: Guy Harrison, taking center stage during half-time show
Dr. Guy Harrison (pictured on the big screen, above) is an assistant professor of violin in the Department of Music in the College of Liberal Arts who is taking center stage during Auburn's half-time shows. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Harrison arrived in the US with a short term plan to study for one year before heading back home to Australia. Not only did Harrison stay in the US, he met his wife, started a family, and traded in some of his violin skills to play the electric fiddle during this year's half-time show. If you missed him last weekend in Texas (Auburn v. Oregon), you can see him at the Tigers' home opener on Sept. 7. (Or, if you'd like to see it now, you can view the video from last week's performance here.)
Will you tell us a little bit about your role/involvement in the half-time show? How did that collaboration come about?
I was honored and thrilled to be asked by Dr. Corey Spurlin (marching band director) to collaborate with the Auburn University Marching Band (AUMB) again this season. This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to work with the AUMB, the last being in 2017 when I participated in the Orange & Blue show that celebrated 125 years of Auburn Football. Although, fiddlin’ is not something that I have spent much time practicing throughout my career, it has been a lot of fun working on a skill set that I hope sounds authentic to those in the know.
With the first game of the season against Oregon taking place in AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, the AUMB settled on a western themed half-time show. Dr. Spurlin asked if I might be interested in playing "Texas" by the Charlie Daniels Band, to which I, of course, said yes. I was sent music during the summer, and made just a few changes to make it sound as accurate as I could.
What were your thoughts about trading in your violin for an electric fiddle and a cowboy hat?
Well the cowboy hat is a new one! The electric fiddle is definitely fun to play. It does take a little getting used to as the feel is very different from the violin I regularly perform on. Part of that is because I have to tune the electric violin higher than it normally is tuned for this show. That way I can use the same fingering I would normally use to play this piece while also being in the right key for the band. Tuning the fiddle higher does change the feel of the strings as they become a lot tighter. The upside is that because of the increased tension you get a great visual effect as the bow hair starts to wear out and break during the performance.
How did you first become involved in music? And how did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I come from a musical family. Both of my parents were performers and music teachers. It is something I have always been involved with, and something I have always enjoyed doing. The fact that I am making a career out of this is a dream come true. I tried pursuing other career paths early on, but I continued coming back to music. The great thing about this field is that the skills you learn as a musician are easily transferrable to other fields and endeavors.
As someone who is originally from Sydney, Australia, how did you decide to live and work in Auburn, Alabama?
I originally came to the United States to earn a master’s degree in violin performance. The plan was to complete the degree in one year and then head home and start auditioning for full-time work with one of Australia’s symphony orchestras. However, once I got here, I realized that only one year of studying with my teacher, Dr. Walter Verdehr, would not be enough. As luck would have it, I also met my wife that first year and she’s been putting up with me ever since.
We moved around quite a bit before coming to Auburn, both for work and to undertake graduate studies. I found myself teaching in the public schools in Texas which opened up several avenues for me. When I saw the posting for my current position at Auburn, I knew that it would be a great opportunity for our family as it would allow me to continue doing what I love – performing and teaching. What makes it even better is that I get to be involved in music making and teaching with students in elementary school through college and even adult learners.
Interview by Vicky Santos | director, news & media services| College of Liberal Arts | Auburn University
Last Updated: September 05, 2019