Justin Bieber’s music director HARV visits Harmon High School

Although it’s been nearly two decades since Bernard “HARV” Harvey graduated from JC Harmon High School, he told a group of music students that it still felt surreal to be back in the school’s auditorium — this time at the front of the stage.

“This is so funny for me right now because I used to just sit in these seats,” said the Grammy nominated music producer, composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas.

HARV, who graduated from Harmon in 2003, made a surprise visit Tuesday morning to the high school to meet with students, whom the district likes to call scholars, and answer their questions. He also donated a guitar, bass guitar and keyboard to the school’s music program.

HARV, who is the music director for Justin Bieber, is in town for Bieber’s Justice World Tour concert Wednesday night at the T-Mobile Center.

During brief opening remarks at the school, HARV urged the teenagers to believe in themselves and their talents.

“Whatever you want to accomplish in life is really up to you,” he said. “You just really have to have that belief in yourself and whatever you want you can manifest that.”

Life is getting ready to happen, if it hasn’t already started to happen, and whatever their goals are, it is up to them to pursue it, HARV said.

“One of the most important things you could do is just recognize that — that you have a moment and you have to seize every opportunity when it comes,” HARV said.

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Bernard Harvey, middle, who is the musical director for Justin Bieber, stopped by JC Harmon High School in Kansas City, Kansas Tuesday, to meet with about 150 music students at his alma mater. Harvey, who grew up in KCK, surprised the students with a donation of instruments for the school. Rich Sugg rsugg@kcstar.com

‘Believed in myself’

A familiar face, assistant principal Chris Green, introduced HARV to the students. Green and HARV played in a band called Still Learning while they were growing up. Green read off a list of major recording artists HARV has worked with: Bieber, Sevyn Streeter, Juke Ross, Cherish, Omarion, Gucci Mane and Eminem.

“I didn’t know I was gonna do all these amazing things,” HARV said. “I just believed in myself. I knew I had talent. I knew that if I worked hard, the things I want I’d be able to accomplish.”

Much of HARV’s time with the students was spent answering their questions, including one about the most difficult thing about choosing music as a career.

“Being a musician or someone that’s a creative, you’re automatically an entrepreneur,” he said. “Entrepreneur basically says you are your own boss.”

Luis Herrera, a 19-year-old senior, said it was a cool experience to hear from someone who started at their high school and has become famous working with well-known musicians. Herrera said he wants to start his own business so it was good to hear what HARV went through.

“What I’m going to take away is like I know I’m going to have bumps on the road,” he said. “I got to experience someone who just started off from the bottom and built his own career.”

Following the visit with the students, HARV sat down with The Star for a quick interview.

“That was amazing,” HARV said. “Honestly, I almost got choked up a little bit out there because I just remember myself being, you know, a student here and being in those seats and not knowing my future and not knowing what my life was going to pan out to be. ”

HARV said he hopes his visit to Harmon inspired the students because he’s living proof that you can accomplish you dreams.

“I just want to ignite a fire in them, you know, and send them on their life path,” he said.

HARV, who comes from a musical family, got started in music when he was 9 years old and began playing bass when he was 12. At Harmon, he played in the marching band starting with percussion instruments and then trumpet, trombone and tuba. He also played bass guitar in the jazz band.

He credits Harmon and its music director at the time with instilling his early development of structure and music. He said being in the music program at Harmon was everything to him.

“It saved me,” he said. “They gave me identity. It gave me drive. It gave me ambition.”

People might not realize that by being in the marching band or jazz band, they are being taught structure, discipline, ambition and how to perfect your craft, he said.

While in school, he played in a band with his older brother and Green and they were always playing music around the city, he said.

“Kansas City can be a tough place, you know, it can be a real tough place,” HARV said. “But I took the positive of that and I took the grit from Kansas City.”

That has helped him realize that if he can make it out of Kansas City, he can make it anywhere in the world, he said.

HARV’s talent on bass landed him a scholarship at Alabama State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music technology. In 2007, he became friends with Grammy-winning producer Shondrae Bangladesh Crawford. He played bass guitar on “Lemonade” by Gucci Mane and “A Kiss” by Eminem.

In 2010, HARV became Bieber’s touring bass player. Five years later, he became Bieber’s musical director and a collaborator. HARV co-wrote and produced four songs on Bieber’s album “Justice,” including the hit single “Peaches.”

HARV said he’s currently working on another album with Bieber and working on music with Normani. He’s also making an his own album which he hopes to have released later this year.

“I think it’s going to be something that nobody’s never heard before,” he said. “I’m pushing myself into new music levels.”

While in Kansas City, HARV will be throwing out the first pitch of the baseball game between the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Bernard “HARV” Harvey, the musical director for Justin Bieber, stopped by JC Harmon High School in Kansas City, Kansas, on Tuesday, to meet with about 150 music students at his alma mater. Harvey, who grew up in KCK, surprised the students with a donation of instruments for the school. Rich Sugg rsugg@kcstar.com

This story was originally published May 3, 2022 2:57 PM.

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rockhurst College, where he studied communications and computer science.

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