Letter From the Executive Director: Bang the Drum

Harris backstage at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2009.

As a hardcore business major in the 1980s, I was focused on getting to class at the McCombs building and learning the technical stuff I needed to become a successful entrepreneur. OK, there were a few parties and dates and football games mixed up in there, but for the most part, I was all business. But one great thing about college is that, try as you might, you can’t be all anything. To graduate, you must broaden your horizons with elective courses. And that requirement can lead to wonderful, surprising things.  

As a red-blooded Led Zeppelin fan, I’d always had dreams of becoming the next John Bonham.  
There was something about the drums. I wanted to learn how to wail on the drums, toss and spin the sticks like a pro, and make an audience of thousands go wild. So naturally, I chose “Percussion 201” as my elective course in 1984, my sophomore year at UT. It was taught by Professor George Frock and, because I kept all my tuition receipts, I know it cost me $37 for one semester. 

The Butler School of Music was as far from McCombs as you could get back then—geographically and spiritually. I walked across campus for that first day of class, took a seat, and was humbled to learn that we would begin our percussion journey on, in my opinion, the most uncool instrument of all time: the marimba. 

But you know what? I attacked that marimba like it was my job and dutifully did my homework, much to the annoyance of my roommates. And it really was the foundation I needed to slowly learn how to keep time and, eventually, get behind a real kit.  

I’m no John Bonham, but I’ve been playing the drums ever since, and it’s added something immeasurable to my life experience. This is what college is all about. We don’t just discover our career path; we discover who we are and what brings us joy. Read “Outside the Lines,” which is full of stories of Longhorns who did just that.  

When you leave UT, you realize you’ll never have access to a playground of knowledge like that again. Now I tell students, “Don’t waste it. Learn everything you can.” Even if you think you’ll never need it, there’s value in going way outside your lane. Latin, badminton, modern art—even the darn marimba.  

Rock on,  

Chuck Harris, BBA ’86, Life Member 

Executive Director, the Texas Exes 



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