In life, sometimes we need to look up and sing "Here Comes The Sun" and "it's all right." Sarasota resident Louise Harrison aims to be the shining light for area students and staff at and local schools this fall.
Harrison, sister of the late Beatle George Harrison, is the first-ever fellow for USF Sarasota-Manatee's Office of Partnerships of Arts Integrated Teaching, or PAInT. She moved back to Sarasota in April after spending years in Branson, Missouri. She previously lived here from 1980 through the mid 2000s.
"Actually, I don't look like much like a fellow," Harrison said with a jolly laugh. "I'm kind of a seniorly lady."
Harrison was stateside after World War II and when she heard her kid brother's band was doing well in the United Kingdom, she thought she ought to make sure they were heard on radio stations in the United States and never looked back supporting and promoting her brother's work.
Nana Lou, as her fans call her, is excited to be back in Sarasota where she said she's happy to be in a place where there are "people more on my wavelength."
"Of the many places I've lived in my life throughout my life, this I have found to be the most stimulating for intelligent projects," Harrison told Patch.
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What part of this partnership entails is that Harrison will organize a benefit concert for USF Sarasota-Manatee and a few lucky high schools in October featuring a Beatles tribute band she created called Liverpool Legends. High school students will learn how to play selected Beatles tunes and will play on stage with the band, Harrison said.
She organizes the concerts and benefits through a non-profit she incorporated in January called Louise Harrison's Let's Keep Music Alive, which can be found online at lh-hkma.org.
The concerts will be hosted in each of the high school's auditorium and after expenses are paid for the band, the remaining proceeds go to the schools' music programs and to USF's PAInT program.
"I always believed that whatever problems you might be close to, if you're able to be part of the solution then that's what you should do," Harrison said. "Let's face it, there are a myriad of problems in the world today, but this is one problem as musicians with a Beatles tribute band we felt we could address." — Louise Harrison
Fellow Harrison and USF
What the PAInT program does is integrate arts throughout its education programs, Osborn said, and Harrison will help do that, as well as help teachers learn how to implement it for future students. That means every future teacher or principal will learn how art in its many forms can be part of a lesson plan or an approach to educating.
"These are artists who agreed to come into our classrooms and work alongside our professors in preparing the next generation of teachers, principals, reading specialists and so forth," USF Sarasota-Manatee's Dean of College of Education Terry Osborn, Ph.D.
Osborn also believes that USF Sarasota-Manatee is the "only college on the planet that has done this" where the arts are integrated across the College of Education.
"Let me be clear. There are colleges that do arts integration as part of courses; there are professors around the world that do arts integration programs and so forth."
The program is a part of the campus' steps toward offering four-year degrees when USF Sarasota-Manatee accepts freshman in fall 2013.
For Harrison, it's an opportunity to be a testing ground to get connected with more schools and colleges across Florida doing arts integration and concerts. If schools are interested they can visit lh-hkma.org.
Studies have shown through the years how art exercises and art-based activities in general courses have improved students learning, even on standardized tests like the FCATs, Osborn and Harrison said.
"When a student's mind or brain is stimulated in the creative side, it also makes it much, much easier for that same student to be able to learn math and science," Harrison said.
She was able to connect with USF through Manasota chapter of Service Corpos of Retired Executives , or SCORE, where her mentor Jon Stuart and other members were able to provide her with advice and connections.
And the Beatles are the most flexible example of how to integrate art into the classroom.
"What the work of The Beatles and Liverpool Legends can do is not only connect to music, but it can connect to social studies in the sense of understanding the social and cultural factors in play in the '60s in the United States," Osborn said, adding math, language arts, poetry to the list. "There are all kinds of ways you can take The Beatles as an arts piece and begin to integrate it into broader units that can impact any particular program."
The Liverpool Legends is one way to continue that Beatle legacy for a good cause.
"I'm following along the line of history what the Beatles are all about — love and peace and caring for each other and that kind of thing," Harrison said.
The band includes those who look, act and sing like The Beatles, including Marty Scott, who plays George Harrison.
Harrison met Scott shortly after her brother died in 2001.
"I adopted him as my new brother at that time and within a week introduced him to Paul McCartney as my new adopted brother," Louise Harrison said. "We have been good friends and he jokingly says to people sometimes about his relationship with me: 'Sometimes I'm her brother; sometimes I'm her son; and sometimes I'm her father.'"
The band tours around the country to raise money to help keep music programs active in the schools, Harrison said, and has done about 15 of these benefit shows.
"I always believed that whatever problems you might be close to, if you're able to be part of the solution then that's what you should do," Harrison said. "Let's face it, there are a myriad of problems in the world today, but this is one problem as musicians with a Beatles tribute band we felt we could address."
Plus, it's not that hard for kids of any age to try to find Beatles music to learn how it's suppose to sound, Harrison said.
"Now pretty well everybody has access to a Beatle record or two," Harrison said, chuckling. "So it's not too difficult for the kids learning it in school to go home and raid their mom and dad's record collection or CD collection and listen to Beatle music and get familiar with the tunes."
The local high schools have not been formally announced, but some are expected to be from Sarasota and Manatee counties. In addition to learning how to play the music, students will also learn how to do proper lighting, sound, stage management and other logistics of putting on a great show.
"It's like a workshop for them as a life experience," said Harrison, who was nominated for a Grammy in February for a spoken-word album.
Harrison also added that she's not oppose to holding a regular concert at an area venue to "introduce us to the people of Florida" in the next month or so if a venue can donate the space.
When the time for the concerts come, Harrison will be smiling and ready to give folks a "Harrison hug."
As Harrison's love for her kid brother's band has proven and the audiences Liverpool Legends have attracted, the clock will turn back.
"It doesn't matter if you're 50, 60,70 or even 90 when you come into this theater," Harrison said. "You're all going to be 17 when you go bouncing out."