JACKSON, MI -- Marcus Norris paces the floor. He knows he probably looks crazy, but it’s part of the creative process.
Norris, a 2009 Jackson High School graduate, is a music composer and producer. His creative process is mostly in his head, imagining the sounds and how it makes him feel.
Norris was commissioned by the Jackson Symphony Orchestra to compose his first violin concerto, which is a piece performed by a soloist accompanied by an orchestra.
The piece, titled “GLORY,” is being performed as part of the symphony’s Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto March 22-24 at Weatherwax Hall, 215 W. Michigan Ave.
“I like to capture the feelings and experiences instead of telling a literal story,” he said. “‘GLORY’ follows the protagonist, which is the violin. You can feel the heartbreaks, triumphs and anger musically.”
There isn’t an exact plot to the piece, but the audience will experience feelings they can assign to their own life experiences, Norris said.
All of his pieces are inspired by conversations, he said. “GLORY” came from a discussion with a friend about disadvantaged upbringings, and how hard a person has to work to make up for starting with nothing.
Despite being more comfortable than before, he and his friend are also are working harder than ever, Norris said.
“GLORY” is a reflection of Norris’s “humble beginnings” of growing up in Jackson, he said.
“I was thinking about how the Jackson Symphony Orchestra had their thing downtown, and how it was just blocks away from the south side where there’s roaches, rats and in some parts, no grass,” he said.
Growing up, Norris tried to learn instruments but struggled to focus because he wanted to do everything. His uncle, Dre Norris, eventually taught him how to make hip-hop beats and produce music.
“I got really into it and it took me far, but in college I got actual audio and recording technology and wow,” he said. “I studied music theory and piano and fell in love. Now I do both producing and composing.”
Norris is currently completing a doctorate in music composition at UCLA on a full scholarship and the Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship.
Prestigious UCLA music fellowship granted to Jackson High grad
He has a bachelor’s of music degree in composition from Chicago’s Columbia College and a master’s of music degree in composition from Florida International University.
“While composing ‘GLORY,’ I spent a lot of time reflecting on the experiences and people that shaped who I am now," Norris said. "It’s surreal to see life coming full circle like this. I’ve been a lot of places since leaving the South Side, but to come back like this means the world to me."