Barbados Jazz Society Scholarship winner Wesley O’Neal Morris is hoping to make a big impact on the music industry in years to come.
The 18-year-old violinist is off to Boston in the United States to complete a summer programme at the Berklee College School of Music, with a plan to pursue music “full time”.
Morris will be making the most of the experience in Boston, and has hopes of being picked up by a band.
Speaking with Barbados TODAY, the teenager said he won the scholarship after entering the Christmas Jazz competition held at Ilaro Court. He had submitted two videos and wrote an essay explaining why he wanted to attend the Berklee College.
Playing the violin had never been at the top of Morris’ to-do list, however. But since he wasn’t involved in sport, it was the direction his parents guided him in.
And after doing his first exam at the age of seven, and being awarded a distinction, the former Milton Lynch Primary School student “just stuck with it”, although he admits having some reservations because he initially thought of the violin as a “female instrument”.
But even then, it was not set in stone that was the direction Morris would continue to go, as he still had his heart set on becoming an architect.
“After leaving Milton Lynch, I attended the Lodge School and music was not on mind when I went to school there. My main focus was architecture and drawing and building design,” Morris said.
However, he ended up on a different path after reaching third form.
“I met a music teacher by the name of Mr Layne, who started giving further classes on my instrument. From there, I met different musicians along the way and they encouraged me to keep playing, and after I realized that the violin was not only for the classical arena, that you could do other stuff with it.”
The teacher at music school Notes of Praise currently lays all genres of music, stressing that he explores “outside of the classical”.
He says his inspiration also comes from a violinist who performs with Madonna, mainly because he has the same type of instrument – a Ned Steinberg-designed electric violin.
“His violin differs physically than the traditional violin. It is a lot lighter, has a way brighter song, and with my foot pedal I can make it sound like various instruments,” Morris explained.
Although he may be young, Morris has a wealth of experience on stage, having played with the Barbados Youth Orchestra and at the Naniki Jazz Festival. He has also toured with his mentor, popular saxophonist Arturo Tappin, Nicholas Brancker, Stefan Walcott and Roger Gittens, and had a contract with Sandals as part of the hotel’s entertainment package.
When asked about his future in the industry, he said that when he returns home after completing his scholarship, he intends to release some original music.