Music Education
3:07 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Quinton Morris: Teaching The Next Generation Of Musicians

Violinist Quinton Morris with a young student.
Credit Courtesy of Quinton Morris

He's only 36 years old, but violinist Quinton Morris has the kind of resume that would make anybody a little jealous.

Solo performance at Carnegie Hall? Check.

Created first all-African American string octet? Check (The Young Eight).

Doctorate in music? Check.

Head of an academic program at Seattle University? Check.

Morris is devoted to music, but he's equally passionate about passing on his knowledge and his love for his art form.

He was raised in the Seattle area and started violin lessons in a public school music program. He chose violin because of peer pressure. "My friends were playing violin," he explains.

Morris didn't plan a musical career. He entered Xavier University in New Orleans intent on a law degree. But he had continued to play violin and  took lessons while at Xavier. That's where he met a teacher who changed his career trajectory.

"My sophomore year of college there I met a violinist who really inspired me. She was African-American," Morris says.

Her name was Rachel Jordan, and Morris says she told him he had an opportunity to make it, if he worked hard and dedicated himself.

There weren't many African-American classical violinists around, and Morris says this teacher made a huge impression. "I was influenced by people who look like me."

Jordan was one reason Morris decided to dedicate a significant part of his time to teaching. At Seattle University he works closely with aspiring chamber musicians. But he and his former string octet did a lot of outreach to public schoolchildren, in particular to children of color. Morris leads a summer chamber music program called Tuned In! that enrolls students 12 years old and up.

"I learn more about myself, and more about the music making and the mechanics of the instrument by teaching other people," Morris says.

Plus, there's the reward he gets watching aspiring artists dedicate themselves to the music he loves so much. This summer the participants will also get the added bonus of working with guest artists from the Seattle Chamber Music Festival.

Morris looks forward to the looser atmosphere of a summer program as compared to the pace of a university academic year. But that doesn't mean he's going to have a lot of free time.

Last year Quinton Morris learned how to swim so he could compete in triathlons. He'll hit the next race in June.

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