Morgan Lee Gerstmar
is a Santa Monica based violist/violinist, composer, and educator from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in the Performer/Composer program from the California Institute of the Arts; a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience, Musical Studies and East Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Southern California and precollege training from the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA. Morgan’s teachers include violinist Lorenz Gamma and violists John Ziarko and Donald McInnes. Morgan's diverse careers in Neuroscience and Music has provided her with unique tools for teaching her violin and viola students.
Education is the focal point of Morgan's career as an artist. She is an active member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Suzuki Music Association of California (MTAC), Los Angeles, Music Teacher’s Association of California and the Royal Conservatory of Music. She has studied Suzuki Method with Ed Sprunger (Violin 1-4), Ann Montzka Smelser (Violin 5), and Danette Schuh (Suzuki Early Childhood Education). She serves on the executive board as Secretary for the MTAC Santa Monica Bay branch and Certificate of Merit Strings Chair. Her students have won State and National Gold Medals for the Royal Conservatory of Music Exam and have performed in the RCM Celebration of Excellence Concert at USC Thorton School of Music. Her students have been finalists in the SMMUSD Kiwanis competition and won Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest for multiple years in a row, and are regularly accepted to SCSBOA Regional and CODA All-State festival orchestras. Her students have gone on to study music at the pre-college division of the Colburn School with Sam Fischer and Gina Coletti. She is currently on faculty with Elemental Music, the Westside Music Conservatory, and the Santa Monica-Malibu School District. In the past she has worked with the organizations Young Musician’s Foundation and Children’s Music Workshop.
As as a performer Morgan has had the privilege to tour in cities from Berlin to Guatemala City to Austin, TX. She has premiered chamber works by Martin Arnold, Yotam Haber, Alex Mincek, and solo works by Dean Rosenthal. She has also performed with rock/folk projects such as George Sarah, Geronimo Getty, Big Whup, and Slumberbeast. As a recording artist she has played viola, violin and musical saw on many albums; her arrangements for the title track on Geronimo Getty's album "Darkness Hides" can be heard on Hart of Dixie (S2, E22) and the movies Back in the Day (2014), Strutter (2012) and Teddy Bears (2013). She has worked as a recording artist at famed studios from Capitol Records, East West Studios, and with independent producers across Los Angeles.
Morgan’s work as an experimental composer and performance artist has premiered at venues in the Los Angeles area, including Pacific Design Center, the wulf., the Standard Hotel, Human Resources, SPACE, and many pop-up galleries and house shows. Her career as an educator has inspired her to use learning as a compositional and performance process for both students and professional musicians. Some of her pieces transform visual elements into a map for creating sound (Nip Nick Notch), while others place classically trained musicians into game scenarios to create music (Cosimo's Stars). A common thread throughout Morgan's compositions is increased responsibility to the performers and audience in generating material (Meltwater Pulse, Reaches), giving a distinctive timestamp to each individual performance. In 2018 she collaborated with visual artist and fashion designer Lauren Dreier to create a performance for string quartet and models, which was reviewed by the Violin Channel. Her piece Meltwater Pulse (2014) was premiered at CalArts and conducted by Christopher Rountree of wildUP. Her string quartet Lost Plate (2013), performed by members of the Isaura String Quartet, can be heard on the Fault Lines compilation released by PACK PROJECTS. In 2014 as part of her MFA thesis she unveiled a hyper-instrument called the "Lunola" which uses violin skills to create new soundscapes. The instrument responds to light in order to produce sounds, using alternating strips of black and white instead of bow hair, and sounds were programmed using ChucK and Arduino. Morgan is always inspired to investigate new approaches to creating sound and approaching performance practice.