Professional drummer Alex Morris’s philosophy when it comes to music is to bring something positive to as many people as he can. At only 26, the Arizona native is accomplishing just that, having played in venues all over the world and even appearing alongside Ray Charles alumnus Marcus Belgrave and jazz great Robin Eubanks. Morris is a graduate of the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, where he studied jazz and American classical music and was awarded both the Conservatory Dean’s Scholarship as well as a Conservatory Initiative Grant for Supporting Imagination and Excellence. These days, Morris’ gigs are mostly with Asian pop acts – including a stint on Chinese Idol – but he still finds time for his first love, jazz, and leads his own projects in the US and China. Morris describes having what he calls a “bass drum moment” to Grade 9 students at Beijing World Youth Academy and explains why exactly he had a framed photo of Patrick Stuart on his nightstand in college.
Ben, South Korea, 14
Why did you start drumming in the first place?
I was always banging on things, a friend of the family’s gave me some drumsticks, and then my parents got me a drum kit. It becomes clearer why I’m doing it as I do it longer. There’s something powerful about it.
Hannah, 14, South Korea
What’s your favorite song to play on the drums?
The song that comes to mind is “My Sharona”; it’s a great song. Nancy Brown and the Fantastic – a band here that works the bar scene here – do it amazingly well. Every once in a while when I’m not on the road, I can do those gigs and we’ll play cover tunes. The reason those songs are played by bands all over the world is because they’re amazing. As far as jazz music goes, I love playing the slow sad ballads.
Caitlin, 14, China
What’s been the best experience of your career?
Seeing the energy of the first big gig. It was for Taiwanese pop singer Tsai Yilin, on her “Myself” tour in 2012. I had a “bass drum moment;” realizing what music can do to people viscerally and really understanding and feeling it. There’s a book written by a great composer called The Poetics of Music about spiritual things that happen through music, but to actually see it for yourself is a really important moment as a musician.
Ethan, 15, China
Were you afraid for the future before you became successful?
Not so much in the past. When I started getting things is when started becoming afraid of losing them. This isn’t the healthiest way to go and it’s something I deal with on a personal level. Again, music-wise I try to go feet first in everything – I just try to do it.
Nicole, 14, China
What is your ambition in life as a drummer?
To play the best music as I can play for as many people as possible. That might change in the future. I might try to spend more time discovering what exactly the music I want to play is. But right now I look at the opportunities I have and I look at my feet. If you’re wondering where you’re supposed be in your career, look at your feet and try to do the best job you can with where you are at.
Michael, 14, China
How do you push past feeling like you’re in a rut or playing something you don’t necessarily love?
Fear is huge. I have heard from a lot of musicians that they would have an opportunity and just wouldn’t take it because they thought they weren’t good enough or ready enough. I think one of the aspects of working in music is that there’s a constant sort of self-criticism that can turn really negative sometimes. I’m not a pop musician, I’m trained as a jazz musician and to have that opportunity to play big stages was terrifying to me. I’m an incredibly fearful person by nature so I have to do things everyday to keep that in check. One thing is to try as hard as you can to be of service to whatever opportunity you can.
Pederson, 15, South Korea
Who is your role model?
One is my mentor Billy Hart. If anyone wants to learn about drums, he’s one of the guys. The way he leads his life is very interesting. The other one would be Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek the Next Generation. I actually had a picture of him framed on my bedside table for about two years in college. My mother had me watching that [show]as a sort of moral instruction and it stuck. I loved it.
Sam, 14, South Korea
Do you have a woman in your life?
I have an amazing woman in my life and we’ve been living together a couple years. My teacher has said that’s it’s incredibly difficult to keep a family together as a professional musician, being on the road and being away from home a lot. But I’m trying hard. She’s also an artist, which is great because we both work at night and we’re both freelancers. That’s a big thing so we can coordinate vacations a little easier.
Linda, 16, China
What made you confident you wanted to be a musician?
To be completely honest, sometimes I wake up and I’m still not sure. Earlier this year, I briefly toyed with the idea of putting this aside and studying math! I really had this discussion with myself for an extended period of time. Someone with great wisdom in the musical community told me you can’t control where your career goes as a musician. The minute you start controlling your career, it’s not going to work. As far as having utter certainty that this is what I’m meant to do, I do not have that and it gets shaken a lot.
Angelina, 14, China
Have you ever been in a conflict with your parents about your career?
I made it clear to my folks that this was a craft profession; that there are certain skills that if I learn well, I’d be able to make a living. You don’t need to play with Brittany Spears to pay rent. There are great musicians who are completely satisfied with their lives that don’t play big gigs. My parents come from science backgrounds but they are both lovers of music. I’m really fortunate to have encouraging and supportive parents.
Photos: courtesy of Dave’s Studio
This article originally appeared on page 42-43 of the beijingkids December 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org