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Ravinia Neighbors Association Blog

Welcome to RNA’s Blog Page which features articles from Ravinia writers. Although articles are chosen in accordance with topics we feel are relevant to Ravinia and of possible interest to our readers, RNA does not necessarily endorse the opinions put forth in the blog posts. If you would like to comment on any articles put forth in the blogs, please use the comment box that follows each post.

Music Illuminates Darkness

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

By Lynne Jungman

Sean Harris is an imposing man. It is not difficult to imagine him on stage singing Porgy in Porgy and Bess or Othello in Verdi's opera. He has not yet catapulted to that exalted stage. However, that doesn't keep this talented, classically trained singer from performing his art, venturing into other styles: from church to clubs to cabaret, being at home with hymns, jazz and pop.

The journey has not been an easy one. At age 4 he was diagnosed with glaucoma and even with extensive medical treatment including surgery, he lost all vision when he was 13. He speaks of this without bitterness. Rather, he speaks of the loss by talking of the people who came forward for him and the good fortune to have schools that have special classes for children with disabilities and teachers who took a special interest in him. His mother was his unfailing and loving support as he has learned to accommodate his blindness. He learned to navigate space and mastered braille. His memory developed dramatically and has become particularly acute.

Growing up, his mother also filled their South Side home with her own singing of jazz and motown songs and there was his maternal grandmother who sang in churches. So at a young age, Sean grew up with musical voices around him and by high school knew that singing was what he wanted to do. He was chosen to sing at his high school graduation then went on to win some singing contests. With that recognition, his path was set.

In college he studied voice and discovered that he has an exceptionally wide range, from counter tenor to baritone. After his studies he sought to find his stage. He associated with various musicians and credits Joe Vito, a musician who lived in Northbrook, since deceased, with being a mentor and a second family for him. This relationship also provided him opportunities and musical friendships. Sean says he is still looking for that big break, but in the meantime keeps busy with singing wherever and whenever the occasion arises, from funerals to private parties and all in between. He also does voice instruction and will be teaching very young children with disabilities under the auspices of Blind Services. Along the way he has mastered a few languages and now wants to take on Russian.

For the last six years Sean has made his home in Ravinia. He is working on a CD now of some of his favorites from classical arias to songs that speak to the struggle of peoples of color, such as "Hold on to the Dream," which he someday hopes to perform in schools. Yes, he has dreams. Sean is not retiring. He is out there, and he hasn't let the obstacles that life often throws in the way stop him. He holds on to his dream!