Julia Morris is known to BCCO as the always smiling, energetic assistant conductor beginning in fall, 2018. I spent some time with her to get a fuller picture of who she is.
Julia was raised in Alameda where she currently lives with her mother after having left home to attend college in Ohio at Kenyon College, where she studied music, with a double major in psychology. During her school years she sang at every opportunity in school choirs, and again at Kenyon, where she participated in everything offered. In middle school she had already considered it a dream to teach and conduct choral music as a career. Julia also played the flute throughout her childhood and as her “secondary instrument” in college.
To talk with Julia is to be drawn into an animated and thoroughly genuine level of conversation. She expresses herself eloquently and brings thoughtfulness to each question. Asked about conducting, Julia talked about learning to read the orchestral score. She said, with great enthusiasm, that she sees something new in the score every time she picks it up. She gave an example of the use of the harp in The Specter’s Bride. The harp’s role represents “a character arc” in our piece. The harp generally denotes an ethereal tone, so Julia wondered why it isn’t used in the second movement to support the soprano solo in which the bride prays. Her answer is that the bride still has lessons to learn (does she ever!) and that after she has endured her experiences, she genuinely prays in chorus 17 – and then the harp accompanies her. Julia was quick to point out she has not discussed this theory with Ming; nevertheless it was a moving experience to hear her express her ideas about the music we’re immersed in.
Julia’s thoughtfulness and confidence were also evident when asked how she views the project of making a career in music. She has observed Ming, Eric Choate, and others in the way they construct careers in music in the Bay Area, and while she sees how hard they all work at it, she seems undaunted about creating her own path. When asked about conducting a chorus, she explained that the best part for her is bringing people together for a shared experience.
Julia currently works in a “day job” for a small fashion house, which involves textiles used in limited editions. Her official job title is Inventory Control/Office Manager. Among other duties, she writes for the company, and can be found lifting 50 pound boxes of fabrics and clothing, as well as wearing many other hats. She enjoys her work, as it provides continuity with her lifelong love of crafts from knitting and embroidery to glass blowing, which she took on at the Crucible, an industrial arts school and workshop in Oakland.
Julia also participated in boxing for a time! She enthused that it’s a great workout. But, asked if she wanted to hit other people, she explained that she took a break from boxing when sparring would have been the next step. (She really doesn’t want to hit people.) Perhaps related to the full-body physicality of boxing, Julia was a dancer at earlier stages of her life. She did jazz and tap dancing for three years in high school.
There may be a YouTube video of Julia as a tap dancing Tin Man from a high school production of The Wizard of Oz. I haven’t found it yet, but it seems a worthy search.