Dr. Alyssa Morris

As musicians, we are constantly seeking to push boundaries and advance our fields in new, innovative ways to continue evolving our various professions. One individual making great strides in the oboe and chamber music worlds is American oboist, composer, and educator Alyssa Morris. In addition to serving as Assistant Professor of Oboe and Music Theory at Kansas State University and principal oboist of the Topeka Symphony Orchestra and Wichita Grand Opera, Dr. Morris has achieved high recognition for her wildly entertaining collection of compositions written over the past decade and a half.

The first of Alyssa Morris’ works I was introduced to was her 2007 composition Four Personalities, a four-movement piece for oboe and piano that is inspired by the Hartman personality test. One of the very first words that pops into my head when describing this piece is simply “fun” - it is clear both the audiences and performers alike have an absolute blast whenever this selection is on the program. The palpable energy present in Four Personalities is one of Morris’ defining compositional characteristics and can be seen throughout many of her other works as well, most notably Dreamscape for oboe and orchestra and Where Do Children Come From? for oboe and piano. Part of this energy comes from her ability to merge differing musical styles together to create new experiences for listeners. Many of Morris’ pieces contain jazzy influences that have historically not been viewed as styles of music within reach of double reed instruments. However, Morris does an excellent job of bridging the stylistic gap by pushing standard notions and composing invigorating works from a wide range of influences.

Another of Morris’ stylistic specialties is her ability to communicate detailed moods, stories, or events with utmost clarity in her writing. Much of her music is heavily influenced by very specific emotions or outside elements that are effectively and clearly personified through her pieces. Some great examples of this technique include:

  • Chrysalis, a three-movement story of a butterfly’s transformation for English horn and piano

  • Coping for flute, oboe, and piano, which is dedicated to and illustrates feelings of those who suffer from various depressive mental health issues

  • Up and Away, the musical analogy of a balloon for oboe, bassoon, and piano

Audiences will have no issues distinguishing between different ideas and making musical connections to outside thoughts and sources just as the composer intends.

While I am a huge fan of Alyssa Morris’ playing and compositions separately, I am also inspired by the way in which she balances all her involvement in various musical disciplines. She has been able to successfully strike a balance in juggling performing, composing, and teaching (not to mention her personal life!) - something many of us strive for on a daily basis.

For more information and links to recordings from the womxn at the forefront of the oboe world today, visit Dr. Morris’ website !

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