Texas Tech bass instructor helps OHS students

Professional bassist Mark Morton stopped by Odessa to offer tips and instructions to string players at Odessa High School Friday.

Morton, who’s been playing the double bass for about 50 years now, says he originally took up playing the instrument partly because of his height.

“If I talk to my original bass teacher, it was because I was drawn to the instrument and because I was a tall kid,” Morton said. “He chose the instrument for me. I was drawn to the lower instruments like the bass and cello and deciding what to do and I figured that I’d go all the way and just play the double bass.”

Morton received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in music at The Juilliard School in New York City. He’s only the second bassist to earn the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in the history of Juilliard.

He now works as the associate professor of double bass at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Prior to teaching at Texas Tech, Morton spent 23 years as the principal bass player at the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in Ohio.

Morton was a first-prize winner of the 1990 International Society of Bassists Solo competition in New York.

He has soloed in Europe, South and Central America, Canada, Taiwan and the United States.

Morton has been a featured double bass soloist on radio broadcasts including National Public Radio’s “Performance Today.”

Among the things he worked with students at Odessa High were fingering and location of notes.

“More than that, I addressed the string players about how to hold the bow which is applicable to all the string instruments and then we talked about fundamental musical concepts like intervals and the differences between a slur and a tie and a hook,” Morton said.

Morton said he was pleased with what he saw from the students.

“We got amazingly good results with the bass players when we got them to start thinking about intervals,” Morton said. “And by intervals I mean it’s the distances between the notes as opposed to the individual notes themselves. They began to play much better in-tune and I hope all the string players remember to play intervals instead of just notes. Then they’ll be much better in-tune.”

Odessa High Head Orchestra Director Seth Bedford was glad to have Morton stop by the high school to give tips to his string players.

“It’s always helpful to have an outside expert because I think you can be knowledgeable about a lot of things, but you’re never an expert on everything,” Bedford said. “Anytime we can find somebody who is an expert for somebody, it’s going to help them out. It’s super important for the kids to know that there are experts, people who are high-level trained musicians, in our part of the world who want to work with them.”

Morton also stopped by Permian High School. His visit was arranged through Cassatt In the Basin. Cassatt member Jennifer Leshnower is a Permian graduate.