Smitty: Joining me at JazzMonthly.com is an incredible violinist. She has the skills to give you a thrill and you must check out this young lady. She hails from Indiana and her latest record is called Latin Jazz and you’ve got to check out her entire catalog of music. It is just an incredible experience to feel her music. Here to talk about her music and her great career, please welcome the incomparable Ms. Cathy Morris. Cathy, how are ya?
Cathy Morris (CM): Hello, Mr. Smith. How are you?
Smitty: I’m okay. How are you doin’?
CM: Well, great after that introduction. My goodness!
Smitty: That’s from the heart, my friend.
CM: Lovely. Thank you so much.
Smitty: You are so welcome. I should call you the lady in the hat because whenever I see photos of you, somehow I always find one with you wearing a hat. You must enjoy that.
CM: I do. I really just enjoy the whole concept of presenting myself in a way that, I don’t know, is a little entertaining, I guess, and hats definitely do the trick.
Smitty: Yeah, it adds a bit of intrigue too, you know, to see who’s under that hat.
CM: That’s right.
Smitty: Well, now, because we don’t find a lot of violinists in this genre of music, was the violin your first instrument?
CM: Indeed it was. I was about seven years old and I was given this instrument by my wonderful father, a bass player, who turned me on to all different styles of music, so consequently he opened my mind and opened my heart to the full buffet and I’ve been going at it ever since.
Smitty: Wow. So, now, you literally come from a musical family.
CM: Yeah, pretty much. My father taught music in schools and played jazz clubs at the tender age of 14, and then all of his seven children took up an instrument at some point and I’m one of the last remaining players.
Smitty: Wow, so you’re sticking with it, huh?
CM: I have no choice. It truly is in my blood and I can’t stop. As a matter of fact, my daughter’s the first to tell you “If Mom doesn’t have a gig, she’s in a bad mood.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Well, speaking of gigs, you’ve got a wonderful new gig now. I know you’re doing the Sunday brunch for the Smooth Jazz station there in Indianapolis. That’s gotta be cool.
CM: That’s right. WYJZ 100.9 has invited me to come play at our only five-star hotel here in Indianapolis, the Conrad Hilton.
Smitty: Well, that’s gotta be cool and that sounds like a fun gig.
CM: It’s a great, great gig, a duo, which is a nice different medium for me to play in. I’m usually out with a four to six-piece group, and the duo and the environment of the Conrad allows me to explore a more demure side of myself that most people don’t see very often.
Smitty: Yeah, and you’ve performed before so many different audiences as well.
CM: Exactly. Just like there’s the buffet of musical styles out there that I like to taste, I also really get a kick out of playing in a variety of different venues, so I’ve played at indy jazz fests and ala carte jazz fests, also on concert jazz stages in front of 10,000 people as well as in small venues, private settings. I’ve opened for, gosh, Burt Bacharach, Fourplay, Rick Braun, Joyce Cooling, lots of folks in a smaller concert venue, and then, gosh, one thing that’s near and dear to my heart is my educational effort. I go to the schools and perform my arranged original music that I’ve put together for orchestras, so I play as a guest soloist with student orchestras and give them a taste of what it’s like to play with a band.
Smitty: What’s that like when you’re working with students? Because you go from working with an accomplished band and then now you’re in the education mode of sharing techniques and styles with students. What’s that like?
CM: Well, it’s art with a purpose. It’s not about “Oh, these kids don’t have it together, they can’t play.” No, no, no. It’s not even really about the end product of the performance but, rather, it’s about the journey getting to that performance and trying to enlighten them to what’s outside of the box that they’ve been living in and just what potential there is for them musically. So I’m trying to inspire and foster a rejuvenation for instruments that kids are getting burned out playing or, you know, it’s just purposeful art.
Smitty: Yeah, well, talk about some of the positive consequences of working with the students. Have you had some great stories to tell or some great consequences of working with them?
CM: I have. I have had lovely feedback from students. Either parents telling me that their child was inspired to take up an instrument because they saw me perform or teachers telling me that students who were going to quit playing had decided to go ahead and continue to play. I got a beautiful letter from a young lady just the other day telling me she had seen me perform when she was in middle school, she’s now in college and, just like me, she wants to go out and try to make a living playing in all the different ways that I had shared with them, whether it’s playing in the beginning days, at retirement homes or strolling in restaurants and then going into the clubs and, you know, when you get that kind of feedback, you can’t be anything but inspired to keep doing that and keep trying to impact lives.