Leon junior Nia Morgan has 'fun along the way' with Tallahassee Youth Orchestra quartet

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The past year has brought an immense amount of joy to violist Nia Morgan. The 17-year-old junior at Leon High School says she would choose composer Antonin Dvorak’s fourth movement in the “American” quartet to accompany this time in her life. 

Leon junior Nia Morgan has 'fun along the way' with Tallahassee Youth Orchestra quartet
© Provided Nia Morgan and the Camerata Ensemble. Morgan is a part of the Tallahassee Youth Orchestras’ award-winning TYO Quartet. TYO will showcase the quartet for a free community concert on Oct. 30.

“It’s this light airy movement that people have described as a train ride through the American countryside,” says Morgan. “This last year of my life has felt like a journey and I feel like there’s been so much fun along the way and I’ve been learning so many things. I think that would be a good soundtrack for where I am right now.” 

Leon junior Nia Morgan has 'fun along the way' with Tallahassee Youth Orchestra quartet
© Provided Nia Morgan plays the viola with the Tallahassee Youth Orchestra quartet. The group is giving a concert on Oct. 30.

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Morgan is a part of the Tallahassee Youth Orchestras’ award-winning TYO Quartet. TYO will showcase the quartet among other small ensembles for a free community concert on Oct. 30.

Leon junior Nia Morgan has 'fun along the way' with Tallahassee Youth Orchestra quartet
© Provided Nia Morgan, a 17-year-old Leon High School junior, plays the viola with the Tallahassee Youth Orchestra.

In addition to sharing live music with the community, Morgan is most looking forward to playing music by composer Florence Price, who was the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer. 

Excited to play music of black woman composer

“I’m really excited to play her music, one, as a member of the Black community and show the talents of other African American musicians, and two, to explore this genre of music that doesn’t get enough light,” says Morgan. “We’re always so into the Mozart’s and Beethoven’s but I feel like there are so many pieces of music out there that are getting overlooked. I’m excited that we have the opportunity to show Florence Price’s passion that she put into the quartet.” 

In fourth grade, Morgan was introduced to a variety of orchestral instruments. Once she heard the viola’s sound however, she knew it was the only one she wanted to play.

She participated in Sealey Elementary’s Strings program before continuing on to Raa Middle School. Currently, she balances her role in the TYO quartet with Leon High School’s orchestra, the Capital Singers Choir, the Melodious Chamber Choir and the Steel Pan Ensemble. 

Morgan is dedicated to her craft, and will aim for an hour and a half of practice each day after school. She juggles several pieces of music at any given time, in addition to her private practices and personal repertoire. Morgan makes a practice plan at the start of the week and assesses which pieces she needs to brush up on before rehearsals. 

Thriving on practice and mentorship

“I once told a friend I’d rather practice five minutes a day for five days rather than go a day without practice,” says Morgan. “Every day you’re building your skill and muscle memory to keep it fresh in your mind. My teacher tells me it’s important to stay consistent.” 

Morgan is grateful for the mentorship and continued guidance of Dr. Megan Sahely who served as her orchestra director at Raa Middle, and now at Leon High. Morgan says Dr. Sahely has connected her with several opportunities in the community, and she strives to meet the standards set by her teacher in the classroom. 

Among these lessons are being a leader and taking initiative in ensemble work. Morgan says that while it can be easy to compare yourself to other musicians or orchestras, its most important to stay positive and encourage everyone you work with to be better. She’s also learned a great deal form Dr. Pedro Maia who served as the TYO Quartet’s coach. 

“He was adamant about how detail oriented you should be as a string musician and how you should hold yourself to a high standard,” says Morgan. “Everything you do should be mindful and every single note should have some type of thought or passion behind it. There is no note that’s going to fly away and be something that didn’t matter.” 

Driven by this passion, Morgan describes her own style on the viola as being focused and intense. Her goal is to be vessel for the composer and to interpret the music as accurately as possible.

For Morgan, the viola’s rich, warm and bold sound is heavier than the violin, and requires her to dig into the instrument when she plays. Her favorite composers reflect a similar kind of intensity. She prefers music from the Romantic era, which was defined by its individualism and inspired by its surroundings. 

Inspired by the music community

Similarly, she’s been continually inspired by her environment at TYO and the opportunities that the quartet has afforded her in the last year. She was part of a chamber music intensive camp that prepared the group for a virtual chamber music festival competition in New Orleans. Morgan was over the moon when the quartet not only performed at the competition, but won. 

She’s continued to feel a growing appreciation for her peers and mentors in the TYO community and plans to pursue a viola performance degree after graduation. She’s also interested in pedagogy and connecting people with the viola by opening her own private studio. 

“Music has connected to me to some of the most positive and valuable experiences in my life,” says Morgan. “I am so in love with the community it’s opened me up to.” 

As for the October performance, she is hopeful the audience will listen with open ears, hearts and minds.   

“I want them to walk away and continue searching for hidden gems such as Florence Price, and to break away from the standards in whatever they’re working towards,” says Morgan. “Look for those hidden gems, those underdogs. The people who are putting in all that work and passion that are being overlooked. I’d love for them to continue looking for those people and continue seeking out and appreciating their work.” 

If you go

What: TYO Fall 2021 Small Ensemble Concert 

When: 2-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30

Where: Cornerstone Presbyterian Church 2904 Kerry Forest Pkwy, Tallahassee, FL

Cost: Free admission

Contact: For more information, visit tallahasseeyouthorchestras.com/. 

Amanda Sieradzki is the feature writer for the Council on Culture & Arts. COCA is the capital area’s umbrella agency for arts and culture (www.tallahasseearts.org). 

Never miss a story:  Subscribe to the Tallahassee Democrat using the link at the top of the page.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Leon junior Nia Morgan has ‘fun along the way’ with Tallahassee Youth Orchestra quartet

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