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NUTHIN' UP MY SLEEVE!: A cow moose rests Tuesday in 3 feet of snow beside the Logan River just west of Tony Grove. / Photo by Mike Sweeney

Today's word on journalism

Friday, March 10, 2006

Help Wanted: U.S. Defense Department Seeks Better PR Officers

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but . . . our country has not adapted. For the most part, the U.S. government still functions as a 'five and dime' store in an eBay world."

--U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on why al Qaeda is winning hearts and minds, in speech to U.S. Council on Foreign Relation (Thanks to alert WORDster Mark Larson) WORD Note: The WORD will take the next week off for Spring Break, sleeping in and seeking wisdom. Return: 3/20/06

Singin' on the streets proves to be launch pad for Gershwin musical star

By Joseph Sheppard

February 15, 2006 | When she was 12, Jessica Harris' parents would send her to earn money by singing on the streets of Santa Monica, Calif. Now, she says, she wouldn't have grown up any other way.

The 26-year-old music therapy student at Utah State University says she loved street performing when she was a kid. Harris said she and her brothers and sisters would perform on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

When there were five of them singing, people would call them the White Jackson Five; when there were seven of them, they were the Von Trapp Family Singers, she said.

"We did doo-wop, jazz, gospel, '50s tunes, and barbershop," Harris said. "The street would be lined with performers and we had to do everything a capella, so we would just snap and sing. It was a lot of fun," Harris said.

Harris now appears at a different venue, the Ellen Eccles Theater, where she plays the female lead Polly Baker in the upcoming musical "Crazy for You. "Crazy for You" is a remake of the old Gershwin musical "Girl Crazy" adapted to include some of Gershwin's best known tunes, "I've Got Rhythm, "Embraceable You," "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and "Someone to Watch Over Me.

"I had never seen the play before I was cast, but I had grown up with Gershwin and it has always been my dream to sing all those tunes," Harris said.

Harris' character, Polly Baker, is the only woman left in the belly-up mining town Deadrock, Nev. She is determined to prevent the small town's theater from being closed down by eastern owner Bobby Child. When Child comes to town to close the theater, he falls in love with Polly. She hates him when she discovers who he is and the story develops from there.

Harris said Polly Baker is a pretty strong-willed, spunky girl that people know not to mess with. She said it does not take much acting on her part to play the character.

"I really don't consider myself much of an actress and I don't have to be in this role. I'm already a short spunky girl from Idaho with a hick accent," Harris said.

"Crazy for You" has a larger cast than a lot of Eccles shows, Harris said. It has a lot of action, choreography, and a twisty plot- it's definitely not slow-moving, she said. A lot of people are used to going to the Eccles for shows like "Les Miserables" and "South Pacific," but "Crazy" has a different sound than normal "proud and tall" musicals, she said. It's "back-in-our-throats singing, like country hicks," Harris said.

For Harris, music is more than a hobby. She says she hopes to help families and youth by practicing music therapy.

"As a performer I've seen music connect to my whole soul, my mind, my emotions, and everything about me," Harris said.

Harris said she wants to use the power of music in a therapeutic setting. She plans to get her master's in marriage and family counseling, she said. Her dream job would probably be to work as a therapist in a youth correctional facility, she said.

Outside of her performances at the Ellen Eccles Theater, Harris can be heard as the vocalist of the jazz combo, Topazz. Harris said she is absolutely passionate about jazz, and that she loves the chemistry that exists between the performers. Any piece of music can be put in front of them, without having ever seen it before, and they can play it.

"You just feel it and you do it. You don't have to follow the paper, that's one of the things I love about jazz," Harris said.

The "nice little jazz combo" has played at wedding receptions, the opening of the campus art museum, and at Elite Hall where they recently were part of the Big Harlem Nights Festival, Harris said.

Jessica Harris can also be seen and heard at "Crazy for You," showing from February 17 to the 25 at the Ellen Eccles Theater in Logan. She's come a long way since singing at Third Street in Santa Monica.

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