Published: Fri Nov 21, 2003The time has come for R. Winston Morris to listen as his audience orchestrates a tribute to his work as a musician, educator and researcher.
Morris, recognized as the world’s leader in research on the tuba and credited internationally with transforming tuba and euphonium music into vibrant, viable orchestral works, has been named Tennessee Tech University’s 2003 Donald Caplenor Faculty Research Award winner.
“Over the course of an academic career spanning nearly four decades, Winston Morris has almost single-handedly transformed the image of the tuba from that of an elephantine provider of orchestral ‘oom-pahs’ to one of a solo and ensemble instrument worthy of consideration by the world’s finest composers,” said Jonathan Good, chairperson of TTU’s Music and Art Department.
Morris, a professor of music, arrived at Tennessee Tech University in 1967 after earning a bachelor’s degree in music education from East Carolina University in music education and a master’s degree in tuba performance from Indiana University. Under his mentor, Bill Bell, at Indiana, he was first introduced to the idea of putting more than one tuba on stage and making something happen. Together, they authored the Encyclopedia of Literature for the Tuba.
“The standard he set was the commitment to making music,” said Morris. “Whatever you are playing, making music and being expressive is what is important, not just playing the notes.”
In his first year on campus, Morris organized the Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble, a group now known as the most recorded tuba ensemble in the world with 13 recordings. In 1975, the ensemble made history with the world’s first commercial tuba recording. Since then, Morris has conducted the ensemble more than a half dozen times at Carnegie Hall.
Morris has also produced 10 recordings with other groups including Symphonia, the Matteson/Phillips TubaJazz Consort, and the Modern Jazz Tuba Project, a critically acclaimed 10-piece group based in Nashville. Some of Morris’ recordings have been placed on the Recording Academy’s list for recognition for a Grammy Award.
“Each recording, based on a lifetime of development and requiring months of research and preparation, is the equivalent to publishing a book, concluding a research study, finishing a sculpture or constructing a building,” said Good.
Morris published the Tuba Music Guide in 1973, as well as Introduction to Orchestral Excerpts for the Tuba. When released, one reviewer labeled the Tuba Music Guide “the most comprehensive annotated bibliography of music ever compiled for any one instrument.”
In 1996, Morris compiled and edited the Tuba Source Book, published by Indiana University Press. Considered the definitive reference work for the tuba by scholarly publications and educators, the encyclopedic volume offers thousands of tuba pieces, an extensive discography, biographies of professionals, career advice, guidelines for composing and arranging, and sources for buying equipment. In 2005, Morris plans to release the second edition of the Tuba Source Book, as well as the Euphonium Source Book.
Havey G. Phillips, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Music at Indiana University, says Morris’ success is due to the relationships he has made with students, performers and educators across the world who respond to his cordial manner, good humor, tolerance, knowledge and understanding.
“His energy, tenacity, creativity and focus is unmatched by any other with whom I have been privileged to collaborate,” said Phillips. “More than any other, he has tenaciously maintained commitment, dignity and purpose for the cause of the tuba and its rightful place in the art of music performance.”
Morris has become an integral part of not only his field’s research, but its history and personality. During his early years at TTU, Morris served as one of the founding fathers of the Tubists Universal Brotherhood Association, an international professional organization of about 2,500 tubists and euphoniumists. Since 1990, he has participated in every national and international tuba/euphonium conference and brass
festival throughout Japan, Italy, Canada, England and the United States. He also serves as a consultant and clinician for Germany’s Mirafone Corp., a leading manufacturer of brass instruments.
He has served as the subject of two doctoral dissertations in recent years, one by Robert Steven Call of the University of Utah and one by Richard Perry of the University of Southern Mississippi. Call focused on Morris’ effective tuba studio teaching methods, while Call studied the history of TTU’s Tuba Ensemble. The Tuba Journal has twice featured Morris in articles.
In 1998 East Carolina University’s School of Music presented Morris with its Distinguished Music Alumni Award, recognizing him for his accomplishments as a teacher, conductor, performer, author and researcher.
“The fine focus of his research does not diminish its significance,” said TTU music professor Arthur Labar, who nominated Morris for this year’s Caplenor Award. “Professor Morris has taken the same path as other world-renowned investigators in the areas of education, science literature and economics. He has identified a need for information and has led the way in providing it.”
The Caplenor Award, first presented in 1984, is the university's premier research award. The award was named in honor of Donald Caplenor, former associate vice president for research and dean of instructional development, who died in 1979.
Last year's award winner was John Wheeler, associate dean of the College of Education.