NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

September 13, 2013

An evening to remember

History of a special kind was made at the Unitarian Church on the night of Sept. 7.

Jonathan and Betsy Woodman celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary there by welcoming all comers to an evening of a jazz concert honoring Newburyport’s Les Harris for all he has done over half a century to entertain and to teach America’s ever-reaching music.

The unaware might have found the Woodmans’ choice of celebrating their anniversary extraordinary.

It certainly was.

In a brief welcome, Jonathan expressed their gratitude for a lifetime of cooperative endeavor marked by good will that made it possible for them and others to overcome hurdles and create what is broadly enjoyed as the Newburyport of today.

I was not at all surprised by their added choice for celebration because I was aware of how taken both had been with Les Harris, as both teacher and friend.

Betsy plays piano, and I forget just how it happened, but I had suggested that Les Harris might be helpful with broadening her skills.

Of course, he was, and so there we all were with the Woodmans doing what they have spent a lifetime doing — giving of themselves to others as husband and wife by honoring one who had done the same over and again.

I learned that about Les Harris a half century ago when he and I found each other as co-conspirators of the first of a series of jazz concerts that grew from the formation of the Newburyport Jazz Society.

He was already making his mark as drummer, but had yet to become a teacher of historic importance to students at Berklee College of Music.

That would evolve over time marked by events common to the lives of professional musicians. What was uncommon was his ability to help his students to reach beyond their perceptions.

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