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Jazz wunderkind Chase Morrin to perform at Cuyamaca College

Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 1:00:00 AM
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Contact: Della Elliott (619) 644-7690 della.elliott@gcccd.edu

Picture Schroeder hunched over his toy piano, playing Beethoven’s Ninth and you have a pretty accurate image of jazz pianist Chase Morrin as an 8-year-old teaching himself how to compose music on the toy keyboard he got from his parents for Christmas.

A little more than a decade and numerous music awards later, Morrin is now home from college for the summer and will be performing 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, at Cuyamaca College. Now 19, the former child prodigy is an accomplished musician, composer and band leader, and has gone on to win prestigious accolades, including four ASCAP Young Jazz Composer awards, the 2013 Artist Development Fellowship from Harvard and his 2011 selection as the pianist of the Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation Jazz Orchestra. Last December, he performed at Lincoln Center, where he received the ASCAP Henry Van Heusen award recognizing promising composers.

His connection to Cuyamaca College stems from his introduction years ago to then-music department chair and current interim vice president of instruction  Pat Setzer, a meeting arranged  by Morrin’s mother, Cindy, a counselor at the campus.

“I am personally proud of the fact that Chase and his trio at the time gave the premiere performance in our performing arts theater when it opened in spring 2008, when he was just 13,” Setzer said. “He has come back to play in our hall a few times since then and it is always a very special event when he does. Although Chase is comfortable with a variety of instrumental and ensemble formats, I feel he is particularly interesting as a piano soloist.”

Morrin called the 360-seat performing arts theater a wonderful concert venue with “fantastic” acoustics and readily accepted Setzer’s invitation for a return engagement while on summer break from his studies back east. Currently a  junior, Morrin was accepted into a highly selective, double-degree program at Harvard and the New England Conservatory of Music through which he expects to earn an undergraduate degree in neurobiology and computer science and a master’s in jazz studies by 2016.

But ask the Los Gatos native whose mother and younger brother, Cody, now live in La Mesa what he wants to do after college and he is uncharacteristically undecided.

“I have no idea,” he said with a chuckle. “Music is such an important part of my life, but I am fascinated by the human brain – especially that connection between it and music.”

His mother is convinced that he will “wholeheartedly” pursue music, but understands that his artistic side can’t deny the pull of scientific research and discovery.

‘He is truly an artist but I think he sees math and science in his art,” she said, adding that he was “brilliant” at math at a young age and began writing novels at age 5. But music became his all-consuming passion that fateful year of the toy piano from Costco. “All he did was music at every waking moment. He even napped next to the piano when he wasn't playing.”

A non-musician, she is continually astonished  by his natural affinity for composing, describing as “amazing” the  premiere of his latest classical chamber piece at the Yellow Barn Music Festival in Putney, Vt., where he was a composer in residence.

Morrin, whose list of music awards and accomplishments is more than two pages long, single-spaced, said the accolades are merely a byproduct of his love of music and performing, which has given him the opportunity to travel as far away as Indonesia, where he studied Javanese gamelan music. He was introduced to the gonang barung –  gong-like chimes – as a student at Canyon Crest Academy High School in North County and played in the school’s Javanese Gamelan Orchestra.

“Studying in Indonesia was one of the most impactful experiences in my life,” he said. “It really opened my mind to the function of music – it’s a lot more engrained in the culture in significant ways. It’s not background music – it’s a part of life.”

While undecided about his future, Morrin isn’t worried. He is relishing his experience at Harvard, describing it as inspiring, and finds the cultural scene in Boston equally enriching. He studies classical piano with Bruce Brubaker and jazz piano with Fred Hersch, and writes for the NEC Jazz Composers' Workshop Orchestra. All the while, he manages to squeeze in a gig or two a week performing in coffeehouses and clubs in Boston.

“The connections I’ve made and the musicians I’ve been able to perform with all make for an incredible experience,” he said.

Locally, he will continue to perform, first as a soloist at Cuyamaca College, and at Dizzy’s in San Diego on Aug. 3, where he will share the stage with his new bassist Justin Grinnell, an adjunct music instructor at Grossmont College, and Fernando Gomez, a drummer with whom he recorded a CD of Cuban-influenced original compositions, En Común.

 

Tickets for Chase Morrin’s Cuyamaca College performance are $8 for general admission, $5 for students and seniors, and can be reserved by calling (619) 660-4627. Cuyamaca College is located at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in Rancho San Diego.

head shot of jazz pianist Chase Morrinchase morrin at piano onstage
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