Gabriel Morales Receives Ping Legacy Award for Service-Learning

June 11, 2020
Amanda Nagy
Man holding guitar.
Gabriel Morales ’22 is the recipient of the Ping Student Service Legacy Award from Ohio Campus Compact. Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97

Second-year Gabriel Morales, a jazz guitar performance major, has received the 2020 Charles J. Ping Student Service Legacy Award from Ohio Campus Compact.

The Ping Student Service Award recognizes and honors undergraduate students for their outstanding leadership and contributions to community service or service-learning on their campus and within their community. Recipients of the award represent the next generation of civic leaders and problem solvers.

Morales is one of two award recipients who was selected for the Legacy Award—a recognition of nominees who show exceptional leadership, initiative, and innovation. The award comes with a $250 mini grant to be given to a nonprofit organization of the winner’s choice. 

At Oberlin, Morales has balanced his pursuit of music studies and performance with community engagement through his work with Oberlin Center for the Arts (OCA), an organization that connects students, educators, and the broader community to various forms of arts programming and other area arts organizations.

When he joined the OCA team, Morales started collecting data on the accessibility of arts programming for underserved populations, researching and creating arts-in-health programming, and hosting performances for area high school students by acclaimed artists such as Rhiannon Giddens ’00. He recognized a potential for arts programming in hospitals and senior care facilities, and sought out opportunities to bring the arts into underserved health spaces in Oberlin.

In spring 2019, Morales partnered with musician Ruby Brallier, a graduate of the conservatory’s master’s in historical performance, to pilot performances for Mercy Allen Hospital and Welcome Nursing Home residents. Morales plays jazz guitar and Braillier plays cello and viola da gamba.

The following fall, Morales, Brallier, and the OCA team expanded their roster to recruit conservatory instrumentalists and developed Performing Artists In Residence (PAIR), a program model in which musicians give regular performances, either at a patient’s bedside or for small gatherings. 

The program provides an opportunity to build community and foster personal connections among students and area residents. The health benefits of music in medical institutions extends to care providers by lowering the rates of tension and fatigue in nursing staff.

“These performances served the purpose of relieving stress, improving the atmosphere, offering comfort, and providing access to art that is often unavailable,” Morales says. 

Morales, an accomplished guitarist, vocalist, and composer from Roanoke, Virginia, is a Bonner Scholar and received support and encouragement from the Bonner Center

Musicians who took part in the program received training in community service learning and working in health spaces, and were prompted to reflect on their performances.

“After a full semester of performances, it was clear that the patients and staff at the health facilities were delighted with the programming and eager to see it continue and expand,” Morales says.

Due to measures in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, all in-person performances have been discontinued for the time being.

With the Legacy Award, Morales has chosen OCA to receive a $250 mini grant. 

“I am honored to be a recipient of the Ping Legacy Award and to be able to represent Oberlin in this capacity,” he says. “This award represents the service that opened my eyes to the various ways I can connect with and positively influence my community as a performing artist and arts advocate.”

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