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Born in Oak Park, Illinois, United States, Harris first took up the cello at age five, she first played as part of a jazz combo throughout her childhood and teenage years. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1951 with a Bachelor of Music degree.
She went on to play with numerous symphony orchestras across the country including both the Chicago and the San Antonio Symphony. According to her interview on an episode of The Lawrence Welk Show, she played for Welk because, at the time, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra did not allow women musicians.
In 1956, she appeared in the film Around the World in Eighty Days as a musician. By this time, she had moved to Los Angeles, California, where she worked as a session musician and with various bands. It was in early 1961 that she was hired by Lawrence Welk as the orchestra's new cellist where she performed both on his television show, and in their live concerts, whenever they went out on tour and at the Hollywood Palladium on Saturday evenings.
Throughout her tenure on the show, she was featured many times with pianist Bob Ralston for instrumental numbers and has also performed with the Welk singers in many choral numbers.
Harris left the show in 1978 and was replaced by Ernie Ehrhardt. Today she lives in Palos Verdes in Los Angeles County, California, where she teaches cello and has two daughters, Charlotte and Catherine. She also teaches beginning and intermediate piano in her studio, which features two Steinway grand pianos.
Harris came from a family of six and was the second oldest. All of her siblings were also involved in music.