Josh Harris ’10: Making a Living by Making Laughs

Josh Harris '10

Josh Harris ’10

After being featured in the Carillon magazine last winter, Josh Harris ’10 has made major strides in his career as a comedian. He launched his own website and shares his love of comedy by teaching stand-up comedy classes at yourACT Acting Studios in Decatur, Ga.

While continuing to do live stand-up, Josh has shifted from being on stage to being on screen. This transition came after Josh realized that writing and producing are equally important components of comedy as performing. As a result, he’s created a series of comedy videos to test his new interests.

One video was taped on the Oglethorpe campus in the Dorough gym. The video is based on “The Brand Expanders,” one of Josh’s regular sketch comedy routines that centers around a pair of marketing men who pitch crazy ideas to famous figures. In the video shot on campus, Darth Vader is promoting his own sports drink called Vaderade. Check out the video to see what happens!

Josh attributes the success of the video shoot to the numerous students and alumni who came out to volunteer as extras and to support his endeavor. This connection with students (along with a sweet alumni deal offered by OU’s special events department to use the space!) made for a rewarding and progressive experience in Josh’s career. His comedy videos are now showcased at Sketchworks in Decatur where they’re some of the most requested sketches at the theater.

The OU community can support Josh Harris by attending one of his many stand-up performances or by taking his stand-up comedy class at yourACT. Even if you aren’t a comedian, Josh says that the experience of being on stage also improves public speaking skills and boosts confidence. Now who wouldn’t want that?

“I really love not only performing stand-up, but there’s something about having your own vision and putting it on paper. Just having a crazy concept and then seeing it, bringing it to life…now that’s really something I enjoy doing.”  

Oglethorpe Alumnus Releases Solo Piano Album

John Burke, a 2011 Oglethorpe University graduate, released his first solo piano album this past fall. The OU Blog recently caught up with him to see how he managed to reach such a milestone so early in his career.

OU Blog: Congratulations on your new album!  Tell us about it.

John: The album came out in October. It’s called “Synesthesia” and my goal was to provoke a sense of colors through music. All songs are named after colors and the album has a psychological edge to it that tests your mind while you’re enjoying the music.

It’s an instrumental album and I wrote and composed all the tracks. It took me about a year and a half to complete it. I actually found my inspiration during a study abroad trip to Spain I took while at OU.

OU Blog: So, Oglethorpe helped your development as an artist?

John: Yes. I chose OU because of its size and tight knit community. Looking back, I do not see myself being anywhere else but OU. I majored in Spanish and minored in Music. I also sang in the choir. Oglethorpe made it easy for me to balance between full academic load and music practice by providing access to the piano room on campus. I was able to steal little increments of time between classes to practice. It is a great place to thrive.

OU Blog: How did your love for music begin?

John: It started during my senior year in high school. My friends and I started a rock-and-roll/blues band named “Vinyl”. I had no formal schooling in music before OU. I just listened to music and tried to apply it by ear.

OU Blog: Impressive! What was the first tune you learned on piano?

John: The first tune I learned must have been “Imagine” by John Lennon. My favorite thing to play now is George Winston, whom I consider to be the most influential pianist in my life.

OU Blog: What’s your dream stage to perform on? Dream duet?

John: I would love to perform at Carnegie Hall. And a dream duet would be with Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for The Doors—piano and organ.  And I would also love to compose an album for a blockbuster movie. I dream big. The sky is the limit.

OU Blog: You are obviously very talented. Do you have musical genes in your family?

John: My father is a musician; he currently leads and directs a band at church.  He is my role model and motivation, and I can honestly say that if it were not for him I would not be where I am today.

OU Blog: How often and for how long do you practice? What advice would you give beginner musicians?

John: I practice every day, on a good day between 2-4 hours. Beginners, and even those with experience, should not stop practicing and always try new things and different styles. Practice and variety help you grow as an artist.

OU Blog: Music is a big part of your life. Do you have any other musical initiatives?

John: Yes, I am a choir director at a church in Brookhaven, and I have also taught music theory, reading music and also piano. I would like to spend more time teaching music and sharing my passion for it. It is very rewarding to reveal the beauty of music to someone else.

The album is available at www.johnburkemusic.com. John’s music also airs on Best Smooth Jazz and Best Smooth Grooves, two radio stations in the United Kingdom. 

From Tanzania to Indonesia: A World of Experiences

Emily (far right, in green) with her team of Habitat volunteers for their training session in Chicago before heading to Indonesia.

After graduation, Emily Lawson ’03 became an elementary school teacher at a brand new charter school, Dekalb PATH Academy, located on OU’s land behind Greek Row. She went on to travel the world, live abroad and most recently earn her degree from Yale University School of Nursing in May 2010.

After participating in Habitat International builds in Tanzania (2002), India (2005) and Romania (2009), Emily is now leading her first team of Habitat volunteers to Batam, Indonesia this summer. She attended a training in Chicago that outlined the responsibilities and procedures of being a team leader and recently arrived in Thailand to travel to the small community of Bua Yai where she lived and worked for the Peace Corps 2005-2007. Below is a sample of her experiences as related through her blog.

Emily Lawson in Romania on a Habitat for Humanity build in 2005.

By Emily Lawson ’03

Before departing from the U.S. I had an unfamiliar mix of excitement, anticipation and fear surrounding this trip. Would I be able to communicate? Would I feel totally out of place? How would my community (Bua Yai) react. I hardly slept the night before departure (which combined with 24 hrs of travel, time change and jet lag has left me feeling tired to my gut. Thank God for midwifery school’s lesson of function, participation and enjoyment on extremely minimal sleep!). So far, things are going great and my fears have been appeased. Here’s the story thus far… Continue reading

Send the elevator back down

“I believe that if you’ve been successful in what you wanted to do in your life, then it’s your obligation to spend a good portion of your time sending the elevator back down,” actor Kevin Spacey has said. “I’ve tried today to tell you how much my experience has been shaped by those who came before me – what drives me now and motivates me today, and what will continue to inspire those that follow. The truth is…all of us can send the elevator back down because it doesn’t matter what floor you’re on – in life – there’s always someone just below – just waiting for the chance to be invited in.”   (Watch video here).

Lupton bell tower stairs looking down

Oglethorpe University doesn’t have many elevators on its campus; we have bookoos of staircases. You’ll constantly see faculty and staff members huffing and puffing their way up the stairs in Hearst and Lupton Halls. The students don’t seem to have as much of a problem with the never-ending stairs. 

What’s the point of this post, you ask? Well, the Alumni Office encourages alumni – once they’ve climbed the corporate ladder (or gone up the elevator…) and are the ones doing the hiring – to think of OU students and recent grads. Send the down elevator to pick up some Petrels so they can start their own careers…and one day they’ll be able to send the elevator back down.

Is your company hiring? Are you looking for an intern this spring or summer? Do you have an entry-level position? Continue reading