For Alex Harris, music is more than a form of entertainment.
Since he was 7, the rhythm and blues artist has had a passion for the way that music can speak when other words fail. Whether it’s through his chart-topping soul songs that soothe the spirits of his listeners, or through efforts like founding the Arts Conservatory for Teens — which seeks to improve the lives of young artists throughout his home state of Florida — Harris has wielded music as a tool for good.
Now, Harris is bringing his musical stylings and soulful energy to Chautauqua Institution as a part of the Family Entertainment Series, in partnership with the African American Heritage House. He’ll be taking the stage at 6 p.m. Tuesday, August 20 in Smith Wilkes Hall, and providing audiences with an assortment of songs in his smooth, Southern style.
As an artist who is well-versed working with young people and performing for a crowd, Harris will fuse his two passions to bring Chautauquans a family-friendly show aimed at feeding the soul.
In one of his behind-the-scenes videos on his website, Harris said his music draws inspiration from his experiences growing up around church music.
“What I like to express is my own, personal experience,” Harris said in the video. “That experience runs deep with my roots in gospel; growing up in church, hand-clapping, foot-stomping, tambourine, shouting, ‘Amen, hallelujah.’ ”
He went on to say that the community-building hymns of churches share some similarities with the R&B and soul music he makes now.
“It’s just great music that ‘feeds’ the soul of anyone who listens,” Harris said in 2016, ahead of a performance at the Palladium in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Having opened for performers like Al Green and Aretha Franklin, Harris’ music has been enjoyed across the country by young and old alike. He’s capable of covering famous pieces like the works of Otis Redding and Ray Charles, while also producing original songs that have topped the American Blues Network Charts and landed in the top 20 songs nationwide.
Harris said being able to mix existing work and personal experience is part and parcel of an artist’s job.
“As artists, we are re-creators of what’s already been created,” Harris said in his behind-the-scenes video. “We’re taking words, we’re taking experiences and we’re observing and participating.”
Those interested in seeing Harris perform are in for an evening of rhythm, blues and tapping their shoes.
“Expect to experience something you have never experienced before,” Harris said before his 2016 Palladium show. “It’s fun, it’s magical, it’s soul.”