Saturday, January 20th, 2018

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Meet Greg Harris, dynamic president, CEO of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Greg Harris, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, holds one of Joan Jett’s guitars from the museum’s collection of artifacts. “We treat this like a Van Gogh,” he says. (Photograph by Robert Muller)

Greg Harris, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, holds one of Joan Jett’s guitars from the museum’s collection of artifacts. “We treat this like a Van Gogh,” he says. (Photograph by Robert Muller)







The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is celebrating its 20th birthday this year, and recently welcomed its 10 millionth visitor. “Now we’re planning for the next 10 million people,” says Greg Harris, president and CEO of the Rock Hall since 2012. “Annually, these visitors come from all 50 states and over 100 foreign countries.” Since 1995, the Rock Hall has provided more than $2 billion in economic impact for the Northeast Ohio region.

In keeping with the Rock Hall’s mission, “to engage, teach and inspire through the power of Rock ‘n Roll,” Greg says they are doing more interpretive exhibits that tell the stories – not just the artifacts. “It’s more about the human element; the individuals and the music they play,” he says. Live music is incorporated into events and programs whenever possible, both inside and outdoors. In its function as a museum, the Rock Hall has a very active traveling exhibition program. “We are partnering with other museums to grow awareness and presence outside of Cleveland,” he says. “We will tour all of our major exhibits to high-profile museums around the country.”

Greg is passionate about music. He was raised in the Philadelphia area where he co-founded and operated the Philadelphia Record Exchange, a retail store that specialized in selling rare, used and independent records. He is also an amateur guitarist. Among his favorite musicians and groups already inducted into the Hall of Fame are Tom Waits, Nirvana, Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Stooges, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Dr. John. Others, that he would love to see inducted someday, include The Replacements, Pearl Jam and blues player Lightnin’ Hopkins. What a diverse range of music!

Greg, his wife, Deirdre, and their two teenagers, daughter Alex and son Jack, live in Chagrin Falls. On weekends they focus on family activities that include the kids’ many sporting events. Greg’s interests, besides music, are old motorcycles and baseball. Given his background, that isn’t surprising; he spent 14 years working at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. During that time, he added to his B.A. in History from Temple University, by earning a masters degree from the Cooperstown Graduate Program for History and Museum Studies. When former Rock Hall CEO, Terry Stewart, tried to recruit him to Cleveland the first time, Greg declined the offer. A couple of years later when the timing was better for his family, Greg accepted, coming on board as vice president of development and government affairs. That was in 2008. He says, “I love the community and all the progress being made in Cleveland, and the great, down-to-earth, authentic people here.”

“I think Currents’ readers will be particularly interested in our Herb Ritts exhibition,” says Greg. Herb Ritts was known, first and foremost, as one of the great high fashion photographers, but “Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits” is the first time his rock portraits are being shown together. The show includes more than 100 images, 40 of which have never been seen before. His subjects include Bob Dylan, Madonna, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Bjork, etc.

Other exhibits currently on display are the “2015 Inductees Exhibit” and “Paul Simon – Words & Music.” The constantly changing and evolving “Right Here Right Now” exhibit deals with contemporary artists such as Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Bruno Mars. Samples of their concert attire/costumes are on display.

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