Shelly Harris doesn't remember a day when her son, Marc, was not into music.
She recalls his preschool teacher telling her that Marc would actually play the toy xylophone instead of bang on it like most children. But Harris also found that a traditional music class was not for her son. He barely lasted a few days in piano class and made it through only a few guitar lessons.
But mother and son, who live in Costa Mesa, know now why that was. Shelly Harris realized at some point that the conventional lessons were doing nothing more than stifling her son's creativity.
Marc was meant to play the saxophone. And he was not just a performer. Composing music was his thing.
Marc Harris took up music only in seventh grade. But in less than five years, he has composed several classical and jazz pieces, is a member of Brethren Christian School's Honors Wind Symphony, and occasionally serves as its student instructor.
"For me, there is nothing quite like creating music," says the goateed teen, who pauses to think before he speaks and then delivers softly spoken, measured responses – just like the smooth notes that flow out of his saxophone.
His goal is to compose music for films, Marc says. Since last year, Willie Murillo, trumpeter and music producer, took Marc under his wing after hearing him play at the high school's Big Night o' Jazz event. Marc had composed a piece and had asked Murillo, a special guest at the event, if he would like to play along with them.
At the end of the night, Murillo told Marc's mother that he wished to mentor him.
Murillo's mentorship has done great things for Marc, Shelly Harris said. In addition to linking him up with Mark Visher of Disney for additional training on the alto sax, clarinet and flute, Murillo also invited him to attend musical events in Los Angeles, introduced him to other musicians and exposed him to the work environment of a professional musician.
"I've been learning so much from Willie, it's amazing," Marc says.
He is especially happy about learning how to compose the right way. Earlier, Marc said, he would put together bits and pieces that sounded good independently, but didn't really work well together.
"He taught me how to let go of something that did not really work," Marc said of Murillo.
Marc has been prolific over the summer, composing a jazz blues song, a Baroque style string quartet, a 19-piece brass fanfare, and a 30-piece Celtic tune complete with a choral portion. Not surprisingly, Marc wants to study music composition in college.
Marc's band teacher, Len Montgomery, says he saw the spark in the talented teenager as soon as he met him.
"He has a composer's personality and temperament," he says. "He never stops until he gets the sound he is after and that is a great quality to have at such a young age."
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