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Former rock ‘n’ roller James Morris hits all the right notes at Valley College

Updated: Mar 4

The broadcasting instructor's well-rounded career gives his students real-world experience.

By Star Eisenberg, Editor-in-Chief

James Morris poses in the Business/Journalism building for his profile on Jan. 30. (Astrid Cortez | The Valley Star)

As students shuffle into the classroom and prepare for the day’s lecture, they are easily drawn to the passion of Professor James Morris who looks like he belongs on center stage.

The 49-year-old professor, who has had a colorful career ranging from the rock scene to teaching at Valley College to television production at KABC news, holds a full-time job as a broadcast engineer for the city of Los Angeles and teaches part-time in the Media Arts Department.

Combining his experience and skills, the Valley College graduate turned educator is helping shape the next generation of media professionals.

“If you can attune yourself to being open to opportunities because you are looking to actively participate in something that’s going to help you grow, then Valley College is dripping with opportunity,” said Morris, who is teaching digital and social media broadcasting online this spring.

In the early 90s, Morris jumped at the chance to play bass for his favorite band, Downset, during his high school years.

“I was a skateboard kid, and punk rock was an easy thing for me to fit into,” said Morris.

Photo courtesy of James Morris

Downset signed with Mercury Records and toured extensively, performing at Ozzfest ‘97 and sharing stages with renowned bands such as Metallica, Pantera, and Slayer.

“We were on MTV in Europe, I’ve done a lot of interviews, and I’ve been on camera several times,” said Morris.  “I always ended up taking a look at what the technicians were doing.”

Following nearly a decade on the road, Morris redirected his creative spark and growing thirst for knowledge after the band dissolved in the early 2000s.

Drawn to media arts as a natural extension of his music career, Morris enrolled in television production classes at Valley.

“I remember succinctly the first time I drove my car up to the parking lot at Valley College to register for classes,” Morris said.  “It was a sunny day.  I remember smelling the pine trees and seeing this campus laid out before me.  The noise of students walking and talking, the gardener with the lawnmower, the noise of people, and the noise of school and scholastic life.  I breathed it in, and I just knew I wanted to be a part of all this energy.”

Valley provided the platform to hone his skills.  This prepared him to land a job at KABC-TV, an opportunity that would mark the beginning of a new career.

“Broadcasting is what’s going on today, and the art of broadcasting is always evolving,” Morris said.  “It’s always fresh.  It’s always new, and I love it.”

Photo courtesy of James Morris

Morris managed to amass over a decade of professional experience while balancing his education at Valley and work at KABC.  Encouraged by many of his professors who recognized his talents, he began his teaching career in 2017.

“Professor James Morris is one of our top adjunct professors in the department,” said Jason Beaton, professor of broadcasting.  “It's a pleasure to work with him as a colleague and consistently get his advice for our television side of broadcasting.”

Morris has instructed a variety of broadcasting classes since joining the Valley faculty, including radio and television advertising, television announcing and single-camera production. 

“Take a moment, look around, and realize that Valley College is full of opportunities,” Morris said.


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