Judd Harris

Thursday, Oct 22, 2015


I've listened to Billy Joel my whole life.  My parents are fans, my older brother is a fan, and naturally I became a fan.  In 1998 I was a junior at NYU studying musical theater at the Tisch School of the Arts when I heard that Billy Joel was coming to NYU as part of his lecture tour called "A Night of Q&A and a Little Music." He was going to be at the Loeb Student Center (which has since been torn down, rebuilt, and renamed the Kimmel Center, much to my chagrin). I had already heard about the tour because my brother, while attending University of Pennsylvania, had seen it. He told me that some daring individual had asked to come up on stage and play a song with Billy and that the Piano Man had said yes. So my friend Steve Bebout, hearing about my brother's experience, suggested I try to sing with Billy.

At first I thought: "Yeah, right!" But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that this could be the opportunity of a lifetime to sing with one of my all time favorite musicians. I almost felt like it would be insulting to fate if I didn't. I mean, here was Billy Joel coming to my school and I had a ticket and a chance to raise my hand and get called on. It just all of the sudden seemed meant to be. So I took my voice class tape recorder and bought a couple of super-long cassette tapes (yes, it was that long ago) and showed up extremely early to get a seat toward the front of the auditorium. I was jumping up and down trying to get him to call on me the whole time.  And sure enough, toward the end, he did.

The rest you can watch here — an impromptu performance of "Baby Grand" with Billy Joel, and yours truly filling in for Ray Charles.

Definitely my favorite memory of college and one of my favorite moments in my life.

— Judd Harris, Class of 1999