Interview: After Lighting Up the Apollo, NJ Singing Phenom Alexis Morrast Plays SOPAC March 11

Courtesy of the Morrast family

She’s performed with Dionne Warwick, Ray Chew and Bertha Hope. She’s performed at the Apollo Theatre, Jazz at Lincoln Center and sung in Cape Town, South Africa.

And she’s only 16 years old.

Singer-songwriter Alexis Morrast may be a teenager, but she’s already making huge waves in the music world. Born in Newark and currently residing in Plainfield, the young artist will be performing at South Orange Performing Arts Center on Sunday, March 11 as part of the Jazz in the Loft series.

Alexis began singing in her church at three years old and was already singing solos in the adult choir at age seven. While she cites Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan as some of her greatest influences, she said that her musical family played a major role in her interest in singing. “I was exposed to so many things,” explains Alexis. “I was listening to jazz in the car with my mother and father.” In addition, her aunt [Vernell “Vee” Sales] sings in the band Koffee Brown.

Courtesy of the Morrast family

The young singer is also a two-time winner of Amateur Night at the iconic Apollo Theater. Alexis was subsequently introduced to a wider audience when she won “Showtime At The Apollo,” the nationally-televised show hosted by Steve Harvey.

“My mom got me the audition at the Apollo. There were hundreds of people lined up in the blazing hot sun in July. They all wanted to get their chance to be on that stage,” recalls Alexis. “When I got onto the stage it was surreal. I’m blessed and honored every day.”

She has also performed at the Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola – Jazz at Lincoln Center, the John Coltrane Jazz & Blues International Festival, in Cape Town, South Africa as well as numerous local venues such as the U.S. Open, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the Apollo Music Cafe and as the featured artist at the Rutgers Institute of Jazz – Clement’s Place.

The singer already possesses an extensive knowledge of both jazz and gospel oeuvres. So how does Alexis choose songs from so much rich material? “Some songs I sing might be about love, even though I’m 16 years old. I love my family,” she explains. “I also sing about war and struggle, victory and triumph…it’s all about the songs that you choose. Music is just like life with many different meanings, feelings, styles and genres that offer so many different stories.”

While Alexis is focused on her developing career, she believes the need for an academic education is highly important. “You have to be disciplined,” she says. “If you’re not disciplined, things go astray. You have to acknowledge this asset.”

Courtesy of the Morrast family

So how does the budding singer feel about contemporary singers and performers that are outside of the jazz world? “I definitely listen to the Taylor Swifts, the Justin Beibers and the Rhiannas because I’m drawn to other genres of music,” she says. “Even though they’re different [from jazz] in a lot of ways, they’re still music. Every genre is connected.”

The March 11 show at SOPAC provides an opportunity to catch the rising talent within an intimate environment. You’ll have a chance to experience her soulful voice, her poise and a performativity that reaches well beyond her years.

Alexis Morrast performs as part of the Jazz in the Loft Series at SOPAC, 1 SOPAC Way in South Orange on Sunday, March 11 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets and information for the event are available here.