Johana Harris; Pianist, UCLA Music Teacher


Johana Harris, pianist, composer and UCLA music teacher who began performing public concerts at the age of 8, has died. She was 82.

Mrs. Harris died Monday at her Los Angeles home after a long illness, her biographer Louise Spizizen said Tuesday.

Born Beula Duffey in Ottawa, Canada, Mrs. Harris used the professional name Johana in honor of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach and Harris in honor of her marriage to the late composer Roy Harris.


A child prodigy, she was often likened to the young Wolfgang Mozart. She studied at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York at age 11 and was admitted to its graduate program when she was 14. By 17, she had her degrees and became a teaching assistant at Juilliard. She also began an intensive concert career on radio and in the northeastern United States and Canada.

After her marriage to Harris in 1937, she became the definitive performer of his compositions--piano solos, chamber music and symphonic works featuring piano.

Her biographer said Mrs. Harris contributed to some of Harris’ compositions.

Mrs. Harris also premiered works by other composers including Rodolfo Hallfter and Blas Galindo, and she often performed improvised piano pieces that she described as compositions by “Patricio Juan Eire.”

Her distinguished teaching career spanned 63 years at 19 institutions. In 1987, she became the first music teacher at UCLA to win that university’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

For RCA Victor, Mrs. Harris made the world’s first recording of the Bach-Busoni “Chaconne and Variations,” which was featured at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. She also recorded it 50 years later for MCA Classics.

After Harris’ death, Mrs. Harris married her 21-year-old piano student John (Jake) Heggie in 1982, but later ended that marriage.


She is survived by three daughters, Patricia Connelly, Maureen Forman and Lane Murray, and sons Shaun and Dan Harris; a brother, Norman Duffey, and six grandchildren.

Private services are planned.