Biography

Born in Northern England, Heather received her Bachelor of Music degree from Sheffield University where she studied piano with Danielle Salamon. Her love of teaching led her to postgraduate studies in education at Durham University. She subsequently spent eight years as head of the music department in a junior high school North of London before moving to the United States, first to Boston and then to Northern California.

She maintains two private studios in the San Francisco Bay area teaching piano, clarinet and theory from beginning to advanced level. She is an active member of and evaluator for the Santa Cruz branch of the Music Teachers’ Association of California, the National Guild of Piano Teachers, is a member of ASCAP, and a composing/performing member of ‘Piano Renaissance’. Heather won awards in state competitions in 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009 - and in 2010 her pieces for beginning piano duet, 5 Songs from China,  were awarded first place in the California State Composers Today competition and she subsequently performed it at the Music Teachers’ Association of California state convention in Los Angeles. 

Heather is the Classical Music reviewer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel and also writes for Peninsula Review, and Performing Arts of the Monterey Bay - see the reviews. During the past few years Heather has been active in teaching piano lessons at Juvenile Hall and from 2013-2015 was a Director of the State Board of the Music Teachers Association of California. She currently writes the New Materials Review for the California Music Teacher magazine.

Heather as teacher:

Heather spent eight years teaching classroom music, along with English and social studies, to elementary and junior high school students in England. As the music director in this multicultural environment she was responsible for the development of the music curriculum for grades 4 –7, focusing on the music of the variety of cultures represented in the school – anything from steel band to hand-bell ensemble and tabla. She instigated a school band and chorus of 90 students and staged several musical concerts and performances each year showcasing the band, chorus and instrumentalists. She composed for and directed/conducted the annual school musical.

Upon settling in the San Francisco area she set up a private studio teaching piano, clarinet and theory to students ranging from preschoolers to retirees and continued her own musical development as a piano student of Keith Snell, a composition student of Martha Ashleigh and a jazz piano and improvisation student of Michael Smolens. Continuing education classes in World Music, Pop Cultures and twentieth century Russian composers have further broadened her interests. She maintains her interest in classroom teaching and has taught recorder ensemble, music appreciation and band instruments and at several schools in the area.

In the area of private teaching she feels herself to be very honored to spend one on one time with so many children each week. As a busy mother of three daughters she has an appreciation of family dynamics and knows how rarely children get to spend thirty let alone sixty minutes with an adult who is truly focused on them for every minute of that time. She adapts her teaching techniques to each student’s needs and learning patterns, employing a wide variety of teaching materials, books, percussion instruments, games and prize incentives. She acknowledges the fact that some students takes lessons because they want to, others have lessons because their parents want them to, still others want something a little extra on their college resume. Some students are highly competitive and want to win prizes in competitions and festivals, some like to perform in recitals with friends, family and student classmates as their audience, still others can’t imagine anything more daunting than to play for someone else. For each student she has a personalized program tailored to fit the student’s needs.

There are two student recitals each year, a fun Halloween recital, often held in a local nursing home or retirement community, when students dress in costume and perform ‘spooky’ music. The Spring recital is more formal and acts as a dress rehearsal for students about to take their Certificate of Merit exam. Other opportunities for performance are provided by various competitions, festivals, and the National Guild auditions.

Heather as composer:

Piano Music

Her piano music is available from Willis Music Company. ‘Piano Garden’ is a book of 8 early intermediate piano works inspired by her beautiful garden that is not without its problems - as ‘March of the Crabgrass’ testifies. In 2006 her ‘Ghost Town Suite’ - 10 later intermediate/early advanced pieces was published. As in ‘Piano Garden’ each piece is accompanied by a description of what prompted the piece, whether it was visiting a deserted chapel in Bodie and hearing the voices of past congregations - ‘somewhat like Debussy meets Charles Ives’ according to a recent review - or the toe-tapping lilt of a Saturday night dance in the Goldfield Saloon. In 2003 an evaluator wrote of Heather’s piece ‘Desert Lullaby’: ‘The wonderful subtleties amidst your flowing melodies are what you are all about and I hope that you never let anyone make you feel that you need to change it.’ Of her own work Heather writes: ‘Ghost towns fascinate me. Since moving to America’s West coast I have explored many of the ruins and fragments of towns that were once bustling places in the early Gold rush days, but are now silent and empty. Most of these places are situated in the desert and require considerable journeys to rediscover. In wintertime the snow covers many of the foundations of buildings that may have once been schools, post offices or saloons, and in the summer time the relentless sun makes the ruins shimmer in the heat of the day.’

Chamber Music For Woodwinds

Her over 30 works for woodwind (published by Tapmusic) range from beginners’ pieces for solo instrument with easy piano accompaniment to more advanced works for woodwind trios, quartets and quintets. Her published flute quartet, composed at the request of her flute-playing daughter for the flute ensemble class at the University of California at Santa Cruz, had its premier performance in the fall of 2006. She performed her piece for flute and piano, Masquerade, with her daughter, Sarah, at the 7th San Francisco Festival of Contemporary Music. Several of her works for woodwind ensemble were performed by colleagues at the Santa Cruz library in Heather’s one woman show in February, 2011.

Music For Large Ensembles

In February of 2004 her piece for chamber orchestra, ‘Gold Fever Jazz’ was selected from over 60 pieces after an international call for scores, and was given its world premier in Minneapolis by the Minnesota Sinfonia. Michael Anthony of the The Star Tribune said: ‘The concert opened with the premier performance of San Francisco composer Heather Morris’ ‘Gold Fever Jazz’ from her ‘Ghost Town Suite,.’ a depiction of cities that exist now only in memory. ‘Gold Fever Jazz’ is a sprightly dance number, rather like a cakewalk with touches of ragtime, along with a contrasting slower section in the middle, all brightly orchestrated.’

In January 2011 her piece for wind band, ‘Pictures from the East’ was performed by the 75 members of the Symphonic Winds of Cabrillo College, Aptos under the direction of Jon Nordgren

Current Projects

Rehearsing the premier of my string sextet: Affetside

Heather completed a commission to compose an anthem for a church choir in the San Francisco Bay area. recently put the finishing touches to a history/biography book entitled ‘Keyboard Composers in the Spotlight’, an in depth study of the life stories of famous composers of keyboard music filled with anecdotes about their lives, a study of their environment and culture and its impact on their music. Over the last few years she has been teaching group lessons based on the book and finds that students are fascinated by music history when it is presented in a fun, engaging manner.

From 2007-2009 Heather was the Events Director of the Santa Cruz County Music Teachers Association. Until it closed she could be found every Saturday playing classical music with friends in The Attic on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. She recently performed chamber music in a fundraiser for the Santa Cruz Symphony Orchestra. She was also the resident accompanist for the Mid County Choraliers for a season.

She is currently a member of the Osher Life Long Learning Institute at UCSC and performs as a member of their chamber music group. In 2011 she joined Monterey Composers Forum and has taken part in a performance of her own music at the Hidden Valley seminar in Carmel Valley. She also accompanies the string program at Cabrillo Community College and in the summer of 2012 began work as the classical music reviewer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

2 years ago she began a research project to find the first pianos that came to California. She has traveled throughout the state from San Diego to Fort Ross, delving into the undergrowth in search for the remains of the adobe which housed the man that brought 3 of these early pianos around Cape Horn in 1843 to rummaging through the sea of artifacts housed in huge warehouses in Sacramento and finding the piano that belonged to Patti Reed of the Donner party in 1849, and which she played in Capitola. Read the blog

Heather as . . .

When not teaching or composing Heather is an avid gardener and is currently trying to tame a completely overgrown wilderness into some semblance of an English country garden. Her love of the outdoors often takes her on hikes, through cities, across deserts or along the coast. She’s a keen photographer – often using her photos as inspiration for a new composition – and writes and illustrates elaborate vacation journals. She has had several articles published by travel magazines and won the Dead Albatross award in ‘Business Traveler’ for her account of a visit to Romania. Since she finds it impossible to watch television without keeping her fingers occupied there’s always a new quilt or piece of knitting under way. In all of these pursuits she is encouraged by, and has the wonderful companionship of, her three daughters who constantly exclaim ‘Go mom!’ at her latest escapade.