James Morgan (born Jamie) started his musical passion at the ripe age of 5 years old when his father taught him the melody to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Little Jamie then asked his Dad to repeat the melody while he added a harmony part by ear on the spot. This started a passion for vocalizing that brought James into the tight, rich harmonies of barbershop quartet singing. Soon after this, his father introduced him to the jazz and gospel infused vocal style of Take 6. This mixed with barbershop would form the basis of James’s understanding of theory and harmony.
Little did James know that he would spend the majority of his high school years being addicted to barbershop quartet singing to the point of competing in competitions, traveling up and down California to perform on shows and becoming an ambassador for youth at a camp for young barbershoppers; the same place he was once a student. To further his interest in music, he even traveled out of district to attend a high school that specialized in the arts: Santa Rosa High School’s ArtQuest Program.
As for composition, James found a book when he was 10 years old in a local bookstore on music theory that he couldn’t put down. This, combined with the influence of barbershop and Take 6 in his life, caused him to try to reproduce his influences, first through transcription, and eventually through writing his own music. He then spent a good deal of his high school years writing music for the annual Valentine singing telegram ensembles, Christmas caroling groups, as well as the advanced Chamber choir’s Duke’s Place cabaret show. He also wrote music for both his and other barbershop quartets during this time.
One summer, James took a trip to Disneyland with a group of friends where he saw the nighttime spectacular “Fantasmic!,” the incredible story of Mickey Mouse’s dream combined with music and pyrotechnics. James was so moved by both the orchestration and the mix that he bought the album and hasn’t stopped listening to it since! This also served to make a connection in his mind to a school on the East Coast that a friend had told him about that specialized in teaching film scoring.
After high school, the logical thing for someone to do who hadn’t focused much on academics was to go to the local Junior College (of Santa Rosa), which happened to be separated from the high school by a single cyclone fence. Three and a half years passed and James felt the desire to move on with his college career, but was faced with a tough decision: to follow his childhood dream of writing and performing vocal jazz at Sacramento State University, or to pursue a new avenue: Film Scoring at Berklee College of Music.
He chose Sacramento State (at first) but soon realized that the calling of Berklee was too strong. After 3 semesters, James applied to Berklee and got into the Film Scoring and Contemporary Writing and Production (CWP) majors with a principle in Voice.
As soon as he got to Berklee, people started asking him to participate in projects of theirs both within and outside of the school. These included helping recruit, network and sing as part of an 80-person, multi-country project (Rhythm of the Universe) sponsored by Coca Cola, singing as a paid vocalist on the accompanying audio CD to a Berklee professor’s new book and even being pulled off the street (and paid) to sing on a student’s Senior project.
He also participated for a year in the Berklee Composer/Arranger Workshop project bands as a pop/rock vocalist, did voiceover work for a number of student class projects and performed as both lead and background vocalist on over 15 different projects for students, all while getting straight A’s in two extremely intense majors.
To add to this, James has also functioned as the engineer and producer on many of these projects. These experiences have taught him how to act as a vocalist, engineer, producer and writer in a variety to settings, from his home laptop setup, to the Berklee studios, to even Mix One studios, a professional recording facility located outside of the school.
Recently, James has decided to switch his second major from CWP to ELPD (Electronic Production & Design) to better suit his first major Film Scoring and to allow him to develop new skills (such as sound design, programming and synthesis), which will increase his ability to be hired as a professional writer/producer.
James also plans to attend a Masters program in Film Scoring upon graduation from Berklee to further pursue his love of composition for dramatic media.
After he finishes his education, James will move to either Los Angeles or back home to northern California to work as a film and video game composer. There, he will follow his dream of becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer, scoring and producing audio for such parades and attractions as “Fantasmic!” that first inspired him to come to Berklee.
Experience & Education
Bachelor of Music in Film Scoring and Electronic Production & Design at Berklee College of Music2009 to 2013 (4 years)
Study in Jazz Arranging and Composition at California State University, Sacramento2007 to 2009 (2 years)
Study in General Music at Santa Rosa Junior College2003 to 2006 (3 years)
Diploma in General Education, Music at Santa Rosa High School1999 to 2003 (4 years)