Metro, Arts

The Music and Legacy of Orion Morales, Global Jazz Institute

Upon entering the Zero Gravity Room on Wednesday night, jazz music emanated from the walls as a saxophonist, a guitarist, and a pianist played alongside each other as part of the Goodbye Boston Concert.

The concert served as a time to say farewell to Orion Morales, who has been an integral part of the Berklee College of Music’s Global Jazz Institute since he joined it in 2015. Currently a postmaster fellow at the Global Jazz Institute, Morales was born in Chile and moved to Boston three years ago to pursue his master’s of music degree in jazz performance.

As a highly motivated and accomplished pianist, he has published a book of 70 compositions and has released nine albums that blend jazz with Latin American folk music and classical music. Morales has performed throughout the United States, produced recordings, and pursued advanced studies alongside grand musicians like Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, and Jack Dejohnette.

Morales’s friends and community at the Global Jazz Institute gathered on Sept. 12 to create rhythms that would convey their gratitude and appreciation for Morales’s work at Berklee. They performed using Chilean rhythms and an improvisation method of jazz which connected the musicians with the members of the audience, according to Morales.

Although Morales has a deep affection for music, it is matched with his zeal for social justice and community outreach.

“Music can inspire new movements,” Morales said. “I think the youth need to be a part of this movement for change. Young people need to build more in their communities and take responsibility to make the changes we need to see in the world. I think they can do this through music, which empowers people to communicate and express how they feel.”

Besides composing and teaching jazz in Boston, Morales is igniting this very change through his foundation in Chile.

The mission of the Asociación Amigos de Orion Lion Foundation is to cultivate social mobility and cultural exchange through the power of music. Morales’s foundation educates students in music from the time they are early adolescents until they are young adults. Select students from the program receive scholarships to then attend the Berklee Global Institute of Jazz.

Morales is returning to Chile to work on his foundation to help provide more funding and opportunities for students in his program. There are currently 40 students in the foundation, and two of his students just arrived in Boston to attend Berklee this semester. Many of the students in his foundation have become the first professionals in their families. Morales intends on continuing to deliver a message of hope, identity, and integrity through music to his students.

“If you want to save the world, you need to go the place where the people need you,” Morales said. “If I stayed here for 10 more years, I could make beautiful papers and recording, but I think in this moment I am going to do more social work going back to my people.”

As Morales goes back to Chile to be a catalyst for change, he will fondly remember his years in Boston.

“In Boston, I learned about the world,” Morales said. “I experienced different cultures through friends and musicians I met these last few years, who have now inspired me musically through their perspective.”

Photos courtesy of Orion Morales

September 16, 2018