Young Ben Harper fan makes great first impression

The 31st Annual Claremont Folk Festival at the Santa Ana Botanic Garden on Saturday, May 31 was one of the hottest tickets in town. With the city’s own superstars Ben and Ellen Harper headlining the event, fans gathered in anticipation, eager to lose themselves in the sounds of the duo.

What they didn’t anticipate, however, was Mr. Harper’s darling duet with another Claremont native, 4-year-old Josef Luevano who ended up stealing the show.

Claremont resident Karla Ramos, who was attending the festival with her husband and two sons, had been enjoying the Harpers’ performance from the back row of the audience when Josef turned to her and said,  “Mom, he’s talking about Neil Young!”

Knowing her son’s love for the singer, Ms. Ramos took Josef by the hand and led him to the front of the crowd so he could get a VIP experience. That’s when the pint-sized performer made up his mind about what to do next, telling his mom, “He likes Neil Young. I want to tell him I like Neil Young too!”

Both Josef and his 2-year-old brother Atticus have been listening to the soft rocker’s music since they were infants, so it was no surprise that he would want to share his favorite song with another Neil Young fan.

When the Harpers’ finished their performance, Josef marched right up to the front of the stage and after a brief exchange between the two, Mr. Harper lifted the boy onstage and the duo broke into their rendition of “Heart of Gold.”

To the delight of the crowd, the Claremont United Methodist Nursery School student held his own next to Mr. Harper, giving a “thumbs up” mid-song and garnering applause from the audience when he nailed the lyrics to the Young classic.

“My favorite part was singing and smiling. I felt the music in my heart,” Josef told the COURIER. “It was like being on a ride.”

The performance ended with a standing ovation from the audience and Mr. Harper giving Josef a guitar slide, telling the tot, “Josef, in like 20 years, just give me the opening gig, would ya? They’re hard to come by!”

Mr. Harper’s mom followed that comment up with her own suggestion. “Yeah, Josef get your mom up there with you in 20 years!”

With the audience still laughing, the youngster left the stage, “high-fiving” fans as he made his way back to his family.

For Josef’s mom, the kindness shown by Mr. Harper and the joy he brought to her son in that moment is something she’ll forever cherish.

“Thank you for making him happy, Ben” says Ms. Ramos. “He was so excited, it made my heart explode.”

Joseph intends on thanking the singer himself by sending him an autographed photo of the two of them singing onstage. He hopes Mr. Harper will reciprocate the gesture with a signature of his own.

Check out the performance yourself on YouTube

Ben & Ellen Harper’s album “Childhood Home” is available in stores now.

—Angela Bailey


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