Chilean piano player and composer Orión Morales worked with Danilo Pérez and Patricia Pérez, inspired by their work in Chile, Panama, and Boston, before being accepted to the Berklee Global Jazz Institute master's degree program. Now he is the vice-chair of Projazz in Chile, the leading music institution of his country and Berklee's international partner.
How did you get into music initially?
My father is a scientist, and I remember way back when one of his students was also studying piano and he used to play at the university’s theater, my parents would take me to his practice sessions. Without any doubt, I could connect with that majestic sound that would fly between the galaxies of Piazzolla and Rachmaninoff. When I turned 7, my parents enrolled me at the conservatory. This initiated a rather complex chapter for me since I always felt the need to change the melody of the pieces that my teachers were teaching me; this concept is called "comprovisation“ at the BGJI. At 15, during my first tour visiting elementary schools, I discovered the inspirational power that music has and how I could use it as a tool for social change. Besides the creative concept that [music is], the challenge was to understand that music is a form of communication, not an end to itself.
What made you decide to attend Berklee and the BGJI?
To be honest, Berklee always felt like a dream that was kind of out of my league. It was completely out of my economical possibilities. That’s why I got my education in Chile within the allowed parameters, and in order to grow and learn, I always tried to get the best out of my teachers so I could feed my ideas. Then I listened to Lihi Haruvi, the saxophone player, at the Panama Jazz Festival, and she was a student at the BGJI. That was the moment when I said, “I want to achieve that place of expressivity and connection in my heart." Then I started to prepare myself to study with the masters: Danilo Pérez, John Patitucci, and Terri Lyne Carrington, a journey that began in 2011 and finished when I was accepted as a student to the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Global Jazz Concentration) program in 2016. I believe that as musicians we must allow ourselves to dream and draw maps in order to achieve those dreams.
Watch Morales perform with the Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors:
How would you describe your experience at the BGJI, and how has it influenced you musically and personally?
Having the chance to be a master's degree student at the BGJI and, afterwards, working directly with its managing director, Marco Pignataro, as a post-master's fellow assistant, gave me new experiences and perspectives. [These include] developing new creative processes linked to the “zero gravity“ concept, to the responsibility of a musician and his role in society under the theme of music as a social agent, to the creation of a conscience about the strong connection between being a fully developed musician and an educator.
This project, without any doubt, generated an evolution inside me at a mental, physical, and spiritual level. I can connect with people from all over the world that, now, I consider as part of my family. I became a more open person and more willing to get out of my comfort zone. I want to deliver the best of me in every possible aspect. The BGJI inspired me, and I‘m deeply thankful for all the teachers and administrators of this beautiful project.
What are your next steps?
After being in the BGJI family for almost three years, I came back to Chile with the dream of developing more educational, social, and musical programs. I‘ve been working as vice-director at Chile‘s most important jazz school, Projazz, which is also part of Berklee Global Partners. Through this platform, I want to develop changes and create social and educational vision so we can create a connection between the teachers and the students of the region, and at the same time keep the doors open so more people can connect with us. This is a big challenge, which allows me to search for more creative questions and answers about the contemporary paradigm of music education in my country.
Parallel to this, I want to keep developing my music-as-social-change project in my foundation that supports young art students, giving them access to proper instruments and scholarship management. I want to keep working with the Danilo Pérez Foundation in Panama and FEDUJAZZ in the Dominican Republic, which are directed by wonderful people who have my total admiration. Also, I‘m preparing the release of my new album that was recorded in Boston, which is a celebration of the fraternity and happiness of different cultures. I‘m in a moment of artistic richness and surrounded by new challenges that hopefully will take me to new galaxies.
Watch Morales perform solo on piano: