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Music legend Cornbread Harris helped debut a needed piano at a North Mpls. school

Cornbread Harris, 90, shared with students his love of the keys and his advice for a happy life.

MINNEAPOLIS - At Lucy Craft Laney Elementary in North Minneapolis, the school's music department was long without a working piano, but Twin Cities jazz and blues legend Cornbread Harris and a few of his friends helped change that.

Cornbread Harris, 90, the father of music producer Jimmy Jam Harris, shared with students his love of the keys, and his advice for a happy life.

“Have a song in your heart,” he told the students, playing his one of his own compositions, a timely tune called “Put the World Back Together.”

A chorus of second-grade students joined in as Cornbread improvised on the newly minted keys.

The moment brought Joy Lipa, Cornbread’s friend, to tears. She helped bring Cornbread to Lucy Laney, and when she heard the school didn’t have a piano, Lipa made a few phone calls and found the donated, refurbished piano from Wells Piano store in St. Paul.

Lipa operates Joy’s Way, helping families in transition, and understands how song supports the psychological and emotional development in children as well as learning in school.

“Hopefully in some way, he was able to touch one of these children in a way that might have an impact on them, in their future life,” said Lipa.

The school called the event the “Hope and Jazz Jam” and students undertook a penny drive to contribute their own giving to the gifted piano.

Cornbread shared his own story, as an orphaned, disabled child in the foster system only discovering music in early adulthood, teaching himself to play from a book of piano chords. He hasn’t stopped playing 70 years later.

“It’s a blessing to me to be able to share my blessings,” said Cornbread. “This is what a small amount of anything can do in the big picture of the world.”

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