Fairfield grad makes living making music

Ellis has been playing bass for years and makes his living doing so in Los Angeles, often backing up music stars like Trainor, best known for her No. 1 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100: “All About That Bass.” After graduating from Fairfield High School in 2008, Ellis majored in jazz studies at the prestigious College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

“During my time there, I met a lot of great people that opened my eyes to new things, and I realized that there was a program in California called The All-American College Band, which takes all the nation’s top jazz college students and puts them in a band. They perform at Disneyland every day,” he said.

He made the cut, which fit perfectly with his goals because he had long wanted to move to California. However, the road to being a professional musician was first paved when he started following his father, Marc Ellis, also a musician.

“Eventually, in one of the bands the keyboard player didn’t show up one day, so I sat in and ended up playing in that band for a few years. From there, I started music in Fairfield schools in sixth grade because I moved in from out of the district,” said Ellis, whose family had lived in Forest Park.

One of Ellis’ teachers, Steve Tumbleson, knew Ellis would go far. Tumbleson teaches at Fairfield’s Intermediate and Freshman schools.

“When I first met Maurice, he was in the seventh grade … His father told me that as a young child he would hear music on a Friday night and then sit at the piano on Sunday evening and play what he heard. He had arranged and recorded his own compositions. If this was not spectacular enough, he had also performed each part, and with the help of a multi-track mixer put them together on a CD. Upon hearing the CD, I very quickly realized Maurice had a gift from God.”

In Fairfield, Ellis took various music classes and played in the pit orchestras in the school play, and he was also in the Fairfield Choraliers Band. By the time he did that, bass became his instrument of choice.

“I was always fascinated with bass players, being around them all the time with my dad. One day I asked him for a bass for Christmas, and he got me one, and he told me just not to break it … He also told me if I wanted to play a bass as my instrument, I had to play upright and electric bass. That right there opened a lot of doors for me,” said Ellis, who played upright bass for Trainor on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show. “I really got lucky and was able to do music full time.”

Ellis just started producing, and he’s also working on his first album. In the meantime, he has this advice for anyone wanting to follow in his footsteps.

“Keep an open mind. Be versatile. Always be true to yourself. There’s a lot of temptation to be like everyone else … be trained in your craft, because a lot of people can talk the talk, but they don’t necessarily have the knowledge and the ability to back it up. If you really want to make a living doing music, you have to be able to do a bunch of things, not just one thing,” he said.

Ellis has a website mauriceellismusic.com, and he can also be found on Twitter and Instagram with the handle MoEllisonBass.

Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.