“Music Mike” Morton is a Maryland-based musician, lyricist, and teacher who has been a beloved member of the ArtStream community since 2015. He is an accomplished guitar player, having performed with a range of local musical groups. When he isn’t performing, Mike teaches one-on-one guitar lessons and is an expert in a variety of styles from jazz and rock to classical blues and pop. ArtStream is grateful to have such a talented musician leading our classes and directing our shows. To listen to his fun and silly songs, check out his YouTube page!
We chatted with Mike to learn more about his passion for music.
Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and how did you get involved with ArtStream?
I was born in New Jersey, but my family is originally from England, so I’ve spent a lot of time here and “across the pond.” When I was very young, I started playing the piano, and in elementary school, I played trombone in the school band. In high school, I picked up the guitar and haven’t put it down since. Senior year I landed an internship at the Damon Foreman Music Academy and started teaching private music lessons, producing music, and performing all over the DC-Baltimore area.
After graduating from the University of Maryland with a BA, I heard about Artstream through social media posts and applied online. I was in the Best Buddies club in high school, so I knew how rewarding working with people on the spectrum could be, and I’ve been with ArtStream going on for eight years now!
What is your favorite thing about music?
The cool thing about music is that there is a type of music for every situation in life. Want to get pumped up? Listen to some dance music. Want to relax? Put on some lofi or some jazz. Feeling sad or nervous or in a goofy mood? There’s music for that; it’s as close to real magic as we can get.
What is something that ArtStreamers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’m a huge fan of video games! They’ve been a big part of my life since I was little and playing on the original Sega Genesis. Over the years, I’ve had chances to work on some indie games and have written and recorded a handful of game soundtracks.
What do you feel is most important to teach your students?
Creativity! When we work on these shows, we do a ton of improv games and give everyone a chance to come up with ideas. When you write music, the number one thing to remember is there are no bad ideas and no rules. Making art is about saying yes.
How do you use music as a tool to improve communication and social skills?
Singing in front of people can be very intimidating, just like going up to someone new and starting a conversation can be scary. But when you practice using your voice in a safe space, you can start to overcome that fear and gain confidence in your own voice. If you sing in front of an audience, going up to them after the show to talk is easy by comparison.
Working on music in a group is also an amazing way to make friends and bond with people. When you’re in an ensemble, you sing together, do silly vocal exercises together and work towards creating something beautiful together. It’s a great way to break down the walls that divide us.
Please share an example of something that happened at ArtStream that you will never forget.
Before my first show with ArtStream, I didn’t know what to expect. We had been working on the show for months, and it was a ton of fun, but I was a little nervous about going onstage. We started with a big group song together, and the audience went wild! That’s when I found out that the ArtStream community is the most supportive and loving group I have ever known.
Why did you decide to become a Teaching Artist and Music Director?
I love music and I love teaching! I have a job that lets me do both at once. What more could I ask for?
Who is your favorite musician?
Tough question. I am a big fan of Jonathan Coulton for his silly lyrics and great song concepts, but as a guitar player, I have to say Stevie Ray Vaughn. He’s the reason I picked up the guitar in the first place.