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Rock Hall’s Greg Harris Blending Old Stars, New

By LIBBY CUDMORE•The Freeman’s Journal

Edition of Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014

Rock Hall president Greg Harris, ’93, shares a laugh with Jim Havener, ’83, at the CGP Alumni Reception Saturday, Oct. 11. (Jim Kevlin/The Freeman's Journal)
Rock Hall president Greg Harris, ’93, shares a laugh with Jim Havener, ’83, at the CGP Alumni Reception Saturday, Oct. 11. (Jim Kevlin/The Freeman’s Journal)

When Greg Harris, ’93, was a Cooperstown Graduate Program “first year,” he may not have known that what he did in his free time would be as important to his career as what he did in the classroom. “We were always out going to see bands in Oneonta, Cherry Valley,” he said. “We spent as much time in the community as we did in the classroom.”

In December 2012, Greg Harris, who rose to vice president of development at the Baseball Hall of Fame, was named the president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

He maintains a home in Fly Creek, and was back in Cooperstown Friday-Sunday, Oct. 10-12, among 25 alums and spouses at the 50th anniversary of the CGP. “It’s great to be back in Cooperstown, seeing alums and family,” he said. “When you’re in a small town and a two-year program, you get to know each other really well.”

While in the graduate program, he did his community service project at Brookwood, helped archive CGP founder Louis Jones’ files and put together an oral history on the Cooperstown Diner. “I spoke to all the owners from the 1920s to the early ’90s,” he said of the latter. “I talked to regulars. It was a big project.”

That spirit of community has helped influence Harris’ new strategic plan at the Rock Hall. “We want to know who our visitors are and make changes to exhibitions to reflect that,” he said. “We want Lady GaGa and Bruno Mars to be in the same space as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. More people can come see these artists, and it will be more relevant to younger visitors.”

Under his new plan, curators work with educators, marketing and digital media to create exhibitions. “We want to engage, teach and inspire through the power of rock & roll,” he said.

This year, Harris presided over the Induction ceremony for the first time, held in Los Angeles. It featured Randy Newman, Heart, Public Enemy and Rush. Next May, he will host his first induction in Cleveland. “I’m very excited about this year’s ballot,” he said. “There’s a lot of older artists who haven’t been recognized yet” – Lou Reed, The Spinners, The Marvellettes among them – “and some newer artists” – Sting, Green Day, The Smiths and Nine-Inch Nails. “It’s a big statement that rock & roll isn’t something that’s from a long time ago. It’s alive.”

Harris has also bolstered relationships with inductees so that they know they are welcome even if they aren’t on the stage. “They need to know that they are part of the story of rock & roll,” he said. “It’s something the Baseball Hall of Fame does really well with their induction ceremonies, and it’s already showing great results.”



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