After life on the road, Harper is settled at Emory

When faculty and staff at the Candler School of Theology have computer snafus they can't solve on their own, David Harper comes to their rescue.

Last March Harper was named Candler's first local computing support person, and since then has been working furiously to connect nearly 100 faculty and staff to the Ethernet system.

Most people at Candler, however, probably don't know that the man who is connecting them to the information superhighway spent a big chunk of his life on the real highway, as a member of several touring rock bands.

On the road

Harper's music career began right after he finished college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he took a few classical guitar courses. "I didn't really want to get a straight job after college," Harper recalled. "I came out of college not qualified temperamentally to do a day job. I was a pretty good bass player, so I decided to see if I could make a living at it."

For 10 years during the late '70s and early '80s, Harper worked as a full-time musician. He spent a lot of that time on the road, mostly in the Southeast, but also in the Midwest.

"I've done just about every kind of bass guitar gig you could think of, except for a straight jazz gig," Harper said. "I've done gigs where there was some jazz involved. I've also done rock, new rock, country and a smattering of jazz."

Harper also performed in several rock bands in which the members wrote most of their own material and attempted to sell their creations to record companies. "We had a couple of nibbles, but we never got the whole enchilada," he said.

In contrast to the chance Harper got to write and play some of his own material, there were also times when he had to play the "Holiday Inn circuit" at hotels along freeways all over the Southeast. Harper refers to those experiences as "gotta pay the rent" gigs. "Nobody likes them, but everybody has to do them at one time or another," he said. "But even that was fun in some ways."

Although Harper and his fellow musicians all have fun tales to tell from their days on the road, he also said that such traveling could get downright boring. "You do a lot of waiting," he said. "You put up with a lot of boredom to get that two or three hours on stage. There's a lot of sitting around in motel rooms. That's partly why I took up photography during that time, just to give myself something to do during the days. But just being away from home was hard, too. I wasn't married at the time, so I wasn't missing that part of a home life. But now that I am, I can't imagine being gone the amount of time it would take to do that sort of thing again. When you're right out of college and living out of a suitcase, it's kind of fun living the high life. But after a while, if you have any sense, you start to think about doing things differently and putting down roots somewhere."

Putting down roots

Joining the Emory staff six years ago was one of Harper's first steps in putting down those roots. He initially was a temporary employee in the Candler Development Office and was eventually offered a full-time job as secretary for the office. During that time, Harper developed a strong interest in information technology and took several courses to supplement his computer knowledge. Last March, Harper was named Candler's first local computer support person.

Trouble-shooting takes up a lot of Harper's time at Candler, where the most common problems have to do with printing and e-mail access.

"A lot of my time right now is taken up with getting people wired for Ethernet, because we're just starting to get faculty and staff connected," Harper said. "I'm working my way through the building and learning as I go."

At home, Harper and his wife April Moon, a chef at the Flying Biscuit Cafe in Candler Park, are busy with their two daughters, Hana (which is Japanese for flower), 3, and Emma, six weeks. Harper said that Hana has shown a passing interest in his bass, but most of her talents seem to be in the visual arts.

Twenty years ago, when he was on the road, having a family and a home was one of Harper's dreams, but it didn't happen according to the timetable he had expected. "That's okay, because that's improvisation. You have to expect the unexpected. You can make your plans as much as you want to, but there will always be something that comes out of left field. So you have to be ready to improvise."

--Dan Treadaway

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