Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, UNC Charlotte (2001)
Bachelor of Architecture, UNC Charlotte (2002)
Hometown: Lexington, N.C., by way of Austin, Texas
Little did Josh Morris know that the Suzuki violin lessons he began at age three would be the first step towards his successful career in architectural design. Josh is the Chief Operating Officer at Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG), a leading international architectural acoustic and media engineering consulting firm, where he has worked since 2005. As a recent interview in Rolling Stone magazine proclaimed, Josh “help(s) artists build their dream studios,” and he has worked with a roster of stars that includes Bruce Springsteen, David Crosby, Jimmy Fallon, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, and Trombone Shorty.
Josh says his work at WSDG is “always challenging. We are always looking for ways to improve, to be better, to perform better.” His projects have to look good AND sound good. He credits his education in the School of Architecture with “giving me the tools to approach how to design; allowing me the breadth of study to discover the sonic side of architecture; and seeing potential in a very unsteady 18-year-old kid to accept me into the program in the first place.”
Read more about how his passions for music and design merged, what he loves most about his time at UNC Charlotte, and his advice for Niners now.
Tell us about your musical education and experience. Do you still play at all?
I started Suzuki training in violin at three and have been playing ever since. Suzuki is based mainly on classical music, but I joined my first rock band in high school and never looked back. Around the same time, my family arrived at a mutual love of Irish music; so while I do not rock and roll out much anymore, my family still gets together at least annually to play. And I write and record my own stuff. I got bitten by the recording bug in 2003 watching Sigur Ros perform as the pit band for a Merce Cunningham dance performance (Split Sides), bought a computer, an A/D, some mics and software and just sort of muscled my way into it. This fueled my interest in studios, which led me to WSDG. I definitely don’t play as often as I’d like, but I have recently completed my string quartet collection and have been having fun arranging and recording that.
Did you participate in any musical activities while a student at UNC Charlotte?
I played violin in the jazz band for a semester, but it wasn’t really a great fit. Mostly I’d just jam with friends near Belk tower or play late at night in the Storrs atrium (a highly reverberant space – great for solo violin, sometimes a challenge for speech intellgibility!).
Do you have any particularly fond memories from your time at UNC Charlotte?
Too many to count! Late nights in the studio with a group of similarly minded and focused peers; literally any interaction with (architecture professor) Michael Swisher; the architecture study abroad program, where I really started to put together the idea that I could bend my passion for architecture to meet my love of music (as well as forging friendships I still have to this day); my band playing for various College (now School) of Architecture parties; making acrylic models after we got the laser cutter – and on and on.
I’d also like to say that I am so proud of my peers – they have gone everywhere and done such cool things. I am so impressed by them – they have infiltrated every aspect of architecture globally, working at top firms and doing really great work, improving the world. And even more happily, I have had the pleasure and honor of working alongside quite a few of them, collaborating on projects with them, learning from them. That was something that I never anticipated coming out of school – that the collaboration was only just beginning.
If you were to give a current architecture student some advice, what would it be?
Find the part of this profession that most interests you, and chase that down to ground. There are so many pieces and aspects to architecture, so much passion and beauty – if what you are doing does not reflect what you love, then it will only ever be a job. And if it’s only a job, find an easier one.
Also don’t be afraid to follow that passion – I applied to WSDG in 2004 and was summarily rejected. But I told them they were wrong and they should give me a chance. Now I’m partner and COO.