Ben Morris is a composer and pianist who lives equally in the worlds of contemporary classical music and jazz. His various projects—including music for chamber and large ensembles, theater and film scores, and electroacoustic and intermedia works—frequently blur the lines between these worlds and tell unconventional stories.
Morris most recently lived in Oslo, Norway on a Fulbright Grant studying with jazz musician Helge Sunde and composing a work for extended big band and video inspired by his Norwegian heritage. He has been a composer fellow at music festivals and workshops, including the Aspen Music Festival, the American Composers Orchestra Jazz Composers Institute, New Music on the Point, the University of Nebraska Chamber Music Institute, the International Gugak Workshop in South Korea, highScore, and the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival. His compositions have been performed around the world by ensembles and musicians including the American Composers Orchestra, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Jazz at Lincoln Center Trombonist Vincent Gardner, unassisted fold, Imani Winds, The Living Earth Show, and the NDR Big Band.
Among his accolades are an ASCAP Herb Alpert Jazz Composer Award and an ASCAP Morton Gould Award, a Downbeat Award, the International Society of Bassists Composition Contest Grand Prize, the Frost School of Music Orchestra Composition Prize, an NJMEA Young Composers Award, and a Klezmer Company Orchestra Commission. Morris has been composer-in-residence for the Houston Da Camera Young Artist program and was an artist-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, The CATWALK Institute, and the Brush Creek Foundation.
As a pianist, Morris has performed at venues including Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene, Wynwood Arts Festival, and Herr Nilsen. He premiered a set of original music with his quintet at the Newport Jazz Festival in summer 2019.
Also a versatile film and theater composer and orchestrator, Morris scored the national public television documentary film Saving the Great Swamp: The Battle to Defeat the Jetport, which won best documentary at the New Jersey Film Festival in 2017. He works as a music assistant for film composer Michael Bacon, orchestrating documentary film cues. In 2017, Morris premiered an original chamber musical, North Pond, at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center in downtown Houston, sponsored by Musiqa. He composed incidental music for a production of Denis O’Hare’s play An Iliad that opened the first season of Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts black box theater.
Morris is pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree at the University of Colorado Boulder as an ATLAS Fellow studying with Carter Pann and Michael Theodore. He received a Master of Music degree in composition from the Rice University Shepherd School of Music, where he was a Brown Fellow studying with Karim Al-Zand and Anthony Brandt and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Music from the University of Miami Frost School of Music, where he studied with Lansing McLoskey, Gary Lindsay, and Martin Bejerano. Morris is an active educator, having taught music theory, aural skills, composition, and piano in the Shepherd Preparatory Program and at CU Boulder.