Artistic integrity permeates Regina Harris Baiocchi‘s music, poetry and prose. There’s warmth, intelligence, honesty and compassion that touch our very depths. In all the works Regina has created, I’ve felt richly rewarded to experience the world through her eyes, ears and heart.
My parents, Elgie Peter Harris (1932-2004) and Lanzie Mozell Ruth Belmont Harris (1931-2010) were my first mentors. Mother and Dad are pictured here at my wedding anniversary party (July 2000) at Chicago Fire House Restaurant, near their home. These two people did so much to make me a compleat musician and writer.
When I was 4, Mother enrolled me in Chicago Girls Choir (CGC) under the director, Mr. Larnie Webb, at Metropolitan Church in Bronzeville. As a CGC alto I learned to sing and met my first love: Music!
Music lessons were supplemented by my parents. Mother sang in church choirs during her youth, hummed incessantly, or listened to the radio. Her favorite stations were WSDM, “station with the girls and all that Jazz” and FM-100, for easy listening and classical music. Dad possessed a huge Jazz record collection. Mother taught home economics (made my wedding dress) and retired as a chef.
As a kid, I watched Jubilee Showcase, a Gospel TV show; Red Hot & Blues, a children’s dance program (where my sisters were guests); and Kiddie-a-go-go (where I danced with my older sisters). I vividly remember sponsor’s jingles verbatim for most TV shows we watched.
Dad was an avid reader, visual artist, bluegrass fiddler, harmonica player and deacon at St. Elizabeth–Chicago’s oldest Black Catholic church. When he finished a book, I read it–even when it was above my head (like Baldwin’s Just Above my Head). I learned to draw and paint imitating Dad. My first masterpieces were my parents signatures, which I forged from age 7–with permission–to sign report cards, checks, et cetera. Dad was an artist, truck driver and driving instructor.
When my parents were alive I could always go back home. Though we were poor, we were rich in Spirit. When I faced racism in music circles my parents taught me to write “heart music” for family and “head music” for the mean world. To date I live securely in the intangible home my parents built for me and 7 siblings.
My parents supported all my concerts, beginning with my debut. When I was 9 Mother’s sorority group hired me for a tea at the Tiki Room. I was shy and terrified to go on stage, but I was geeked about dominant 7th chords. I love dominant 7ths because they contain my favorite interval, tritone. I took to the stage, checked my guitar tuning and began premiering my composition, Sound of Listening. Before I got to my favorite chord, my g-string broke. I cried all the way through the song but Mother and the ladies encouraged me to continue; rewarding me with a standing ovation and my first check for $20.