Ben Morris is a Colorado-based composer and jazz pianist whose music tells unconventional stories and crosses genre boundaries.
Morris 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, Red Note Festival, 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 by ensembles and musicians including the American Composers Orchestra, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, NOW 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—along with an invitation to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival—, an ASCAP Morton Gould Award, two Downbeat Awards, commissions from the Washington National Opera American Opera Initiative, New York Youth Symphony First Music Program, Playground Ensemble, Colorado State Music Teachers Association, and the Klezmer Company Orchestra, the International Society of Bassists Composition Contest Grand Prize, the Frost Symphony Composition Prize, and an NJMEA Young Composers Award. Morris was composer-in-residence for the Houston Da Camera Young Artist program and an artist-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, CATWALK Institute, and Brush Creek.
Also a versatile film and theatre 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 has worked as a music assistant, orchestrator, and copyist for documentary film composer and songwriter Michael Bacon. 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 in composition at the University of Colorado Boulder as an ATLAS Fellow studying with Carter Pann. He received a Master of Music degree 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 Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program and at CU Boulder.