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Qs with the View: George McDougall High School band director Jordan Harris

This month’s Qs with the View interview feature is with Jordan Harris, the band director of George McDougall High School since 2006.
Jordan Harris has been the band director of George McDougall High School – where he also attended as a student – since 2007.

This month’s Qs with the View interview feature is with Jordan Harris, who has been the band director of George McDougall High School since 2006.

Harris is not just George McDougall's band teacher, but also a graduate of the school, and said he knew when he was attending high school that being the Mustangs’ band director was a position he was interested in.

The Airdrie City View spoke to Harris about his musical beginnings, what it's like to teach at his alma mater, and what makes’ George McDougall’s band program special. The interview has been edited for the sake of brevity and clarity.

City View: How long have you been the band teacher at George McDougall, and how did that opportunity come about?

Harris: I’ve been there for about 15 years now. To be honest, it’s a job I’ve wanted since I was in George McDougall’s band myself back in Grade 7. When I first got my teaching degree, I ended up getting a few mat leave positions, and then I was in contact with my old assistant principal, who said he was interested in having me apply for the position. I applied for it, and the rest is history.

City View: What is it like to teach where you went to high school?

Harris: I think a lot of people would think it’s weird, but for me, it’s just like being home. You have that comfort zone and all the old memories, but you’re making new memories at the same time. They have all the pictures in the hallways at George Mac from past graduating classes, and for me, it’s almost like a family tree. I have aunts, uncles, cousins, brother, sister, myself and my son is attending next year. It’s just a part of our identity and a big part of Airdrie for us.

City View: Do you have a teaching philosophy or style?

Harris: I guess the way I look at things is, number one, no matter what you’re doing, to always do your best and never give up.

Style-wise, it all comes down to fun. I find if you’re having fun, you sometimes don’t realize how much you’re actually learning, and how much the two coincide so well together. Nobody has to take band class – it’s an option – so I work hard to engage with the students and make sure everyone feels welcome and a part of our team. There’s nothing I enjoy more every day than working with these kids.

City View: What is your own musical background?

Harris: Oddly enough, my mother played the saxophone at George McDougall, so when we were kids, she’d take the old axe out every now and then, honk away and play a few songs. I don’t remember whether it was good or wasn’t, but as a seven-year-old, you’re like, ‘Wow my mom is the greatest.’ I was inspired by that and then when I was in Muriel Clayton, the George Mac band came one day and played for us when I was in Grade 4 or 5. I was just like, ‘This is amazing.’

When I went to George McDougall in Grade 7, because it was a junior high back then, I was lucky enough because it right before it converted into a high school, so I was at the school from grades 7 to 12. In that amount of time, I learned music was my passion, that it was what I wanted to do and George Mac was where I wanted to be.

City View: What would you say makes George McDougall’s band program special?

Harris: Everyone is welcome. We’re a huge family. You can go anywhere to learn and play music, and obtain great skills, but when you come to George McDougall, it doesn’t matter if you’re a band geek, a football star or whatever the case. You’ll be a part of our team and our family. We move together, do everything together and make decisions together. It’s just a family and that’s what it comes down to.

City View: What’s your favourite instrument?

Harris: I’m biased because I’m a saxophone player at heart, so that’s definitely my favourite to play. But my room is always open, so I have kids coming in all the time to play piano, guitar, sing or practice their band instruments. Whatever is being played at that moment is my favourite, because it means those kids are enjoying doing what they’re doing.

City View: On social media, I noticed you've been actively searching for a liver donor for your mom. Would you care to share how that has been going?

Harris: We’ve been looking for a living liver donor for my mom for some time. She has an autoimmune disease and that kind of culminated and turned into PSC, which is basically sclerosis of the liver, so she needs a liver transplant. The one great thing about the liver is it’s the only human body part that regenerates itself. If someone is O-positive or O-negative and are interested in being tested, they can contact the U of A Living Liver Donor Clinic.

It’s a matter of donating a portion of their liver, it’s not even all of their liver or anything like that. Within that, the donor’s liver regenerates itself, so you’ll be saving a life with a piece of you, but it’s a piece of you that grows back.

In the big picture, whether there’s a match for my mom – I know there is somewhere – but whether someone comes forward and they’re a match or not, stuff like this brings light to all organ donation and doing what we can for people out there to make sure quality of life is available to everyone and not just certain people.

Scott Strasser

About the Author: Scott Strasser

Scott Strasser, editor
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