Ben Morris is a Colorado-based composer and jazz pianist whose music tells unconventional stories and crosses genre boundaries. His operatic scores have been described as “charming and heart-touching” by OperaGene.
Ben’s creative work and research is inspired by his Norwegian heritage. He recently lived in Oslo, Norway on a Fulbright Grant composing a work for extended big band and video and received an American-Scandinavian Foundation Grant to research the influence of folk music on Norwegian jazz. Ben’s debut album, Pocket Guides, is slated for a spring 2022 release and takes elements from Norwegian folk music, jazz, and contemporary chamber music. The music on this album garnered Ben two Downbeat Awards, an ASCAP Herb Alpert Jazz Composer Award, a big band commission from New York Youth Symphony’s First Music Program, and an invitation to perform with his quintet at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2019.
Also a versatile film, theatre, and opera composer, Ben scored the documentary films American River, which premiered at Montclair Film in 2021, and Saving the Great Swamp: The Battle to Defeat the Jetport, which won best documentary at the 2017 New Jersey Film Festival. He has worked as a music assistant, orchestrator, and copyist for documentary film composer and songwriter Michael Bacon in New York City. Ben premiered a 20-minute opera, Las Auténticas, with librettist Laura Fuentes for the Washington National Opera American Opera Initiative, workshopped an original opera, Perspective, through Eklund Opera’s New Opera Workshop with librettist Nnamdi Nwankwo, and developed a new musical, North Pond, at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center (MATCH) in Houston.
Ben seeks opportunities to write for unique ensembles that blur established genre expectations. He has worked with the American Composers Orchestra, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Jazz at Lincoln Center trombonist Vincent Gardner, unassisted fold, NOW Ensemble, Imani Winds, Boulder Altitude Directive, The Living Earth Show, Playground Ensemble, and the NDR Big Band. 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, Sibelius Academy Creative Dialogue, New Music on the Point, the International Gugak Workshop in Seoul, South Korea, highScore, Source Song Festival, and the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival, and his concert music has received accolades including an ASCAP Morton Gould Award and the International Society of Bassists Composition Contest Grand Prize.
Ben is an Assistant Professor of Composition at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition at the University of Colorado Boulder as an ATLAS Fellow studying with Carter Pann and Michael Theodore, 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. Outside of composing and teaching, Ben enjoys traveling, hiking, reading history books, and exploring art museums.