Joe DeGeorge ’10 has been busier than a snitch in a Quidditch match since he and his older brother Paul conjured up the band Harry and the Potters nine years ago.
Just as the final Potter movie entered theaters in July, the band wrapped up a multi-city summer tour capped by a sold-out, live-streamed concert at the famed Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. The tour was dubbed “Ride the Lightning” and, looking back, Joe DeGeorge still marvels at his amazing ride.
Since Harry and the Potters’ first appearance — in 2002 in their backyard in Norwood, Mass. — the DeGeorge duo has: pioneered a new musical genre called wizard rock, or “wrock”; traveled the world while entertaining a loyal following among fans of the Harry Potter books and movies; been featured in major media from the L.A. Times to TIME magazine; played in 49 U.S. states (Hawaii awaits) and in Europe; entertained an audience of more than 10,000 at Harvard Yard; and been featured on a Trivial Pursuit card in Sweden.
There have been many more milestones along the way. (Check out harryandthepotters.com.)
The offspring of the Harry Potter books, from the films to DeGeorge’s band, constitutes “a pop-cultural phenomenon not rivaled by anything in the past,” he insists. DeGeorge quickly adds that “it’s always been more about the books than the movies. It’s an excuse for people to scream about a book, which is pretty cool.” Clark friends have been supportive all along, he says, noting that Jacob Nathan ’10, M.S.P.C. ’11 backed the band on drums for much of the summer tour.
“What drew me to Clark were the research opportunities for undergrads no matter what field you entered into,” DeGeorge says, “and that you’d have a close working relationship with your professors.”
Harry and the Potters proudly promotes literacy as well as social activism. Paul DeGeorge co-founded the nonprofit Harry Potter Alliance, which has enchanted Potter author J.K. Rowling herself with its enormously successful civic engagement campaigns. Joe DeGeorge talks excitedly about the Alliance’s recent campaign to ensure that Harry Potter products, such as a line of chocolates, use fair-trade products and practices. The band’s own Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club has raised more than $50,000 for literary-based nonprofit organizations.
Although Potter-mania will certainly fade, DeGeorge’s creative energy seems tireless. At Clark, he majored in physics with a math minor.
He sees a connection between his academic and musical lives. “In our band we have certain restrictions; we can only write songs about Harry Potter, but we try to be as creative as possible. In the world of research and science, you have to be creative in that confined space limited by physical laws.” As an undergraduate in 2009, he was featured in a PBS/NOVA series called “Secret Lives of Scientists.”
Will Harry Potter’s legacy persevere with his “muggle” fans? “I never met anybody who’s too old for Harry Potter,” DeGeorge says. “This generation I’ve grown up in has grown up alongside Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling did a great job of recognizing that her audience was maturing with her writing. The series’ themes get heavier and the characters get more and more interesting and complex.” DeGeorge continues to play in concept bands and is working on a self-published comic series he describes as a “punk rock fantasy about a time-traveling band.” Whether he pursues science or publishing, music will always provide a creative outlet. He laughingly recalls a jaded bartender working at a Harry and the Potters performance venue who told the brothers, “I don’t give a damn about Harry Potter. Your band was really good.”
Read “Never forget Harry and the Potters and the Bizarre World of ‘Wizard Rock’ (Vice blog, Aug. 5, 2015)
This story originally appeared in the fall 2011 issue of Clark magazine.