Organizers of the 18th Annual Empty Bowls fundraiser Feb. 6 promise a smorgasbord of sorts. But they’ve got nothing on the event’s entertainer.

Columbus native Cathy Morris will bring an extensive variety of her own in the form of a musical mix at least as diverse as the menu of soups, breads and desserts slated for the gathering at Central Middle School, 725 Seventh St. in Columbus. You can ask the electric violinist what she’ll play with her veteran, three-piece ensemble.

But it might be easier to ask what she’ll exclude.

“I still refer to myself as musically promiscuous,” said Morris, 53, daughter of late Columbus Pro Musica Conductor Dale Spurlock, speaking from her Indianapolis home. “I’ve still been trying to taste the whole buffet.”

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So she will serve a generous helping of Latin tunes to Cajun, plus smooth jazz, pop, rock, rhythm and blues, you name it.

“And I might even sing a couple of songs, though I don’t really promote myself a singer,” she said. “But I’m probably going to do it, anyway. It’s definitely heartfelt.”

Her set list will include some of her original compositions as well as cover tunes of artists from Stevie Wonder to Steely Dan.

“The only thing I’ve ever been seriously committed to is my husband (graphics specialist Brian Morris),” she said with a laugh.

“Musically, I’ll go anywhere with anybody for just about any reason.”

She’s also gone just about everywhere to perform, including Japan.

Morris has entertained for world leaders such as former President Bill Clinton and former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev. She has opened for national artists such as Bonnie Raitt and George Benson. She has played at events ranging from the Indianapolis 500 to the Indy Jazz Fest.

Lately, the grandmother of two has been going to Indianapolis kindergartens and playing for small groups of youngsters, finding them an attentive and appreciative audience who need encouragement for their own creativity. She is known simply as the Violin Lady.

“Arts are the thoroughfare to learning,” she said. “This actually helps them use their reasoning and thinking skills.”

Longtime local viola player Beth Parkhurst, who grew up playing alongside Morris in Columbus, always has been impressed with her friend’s musical prowess. That’s just one reason why Parkhurst, a member of the Empty Bowls steering committee, invited her to play for the gathering.

“She is a very talented and accomplished and wonderful jazzy violinist,” Parkhurst said.

Then she considered Morris’ unbridled enthusiasm and effervescent personality with audiences.

“And she’s crazy,” Parkhurst said with a laugh.

That’s one of the reasons she has been so popular in previous appearances locally at everything from JCB NeighborFEST to the First Presbyterian Church music series and Columbus Symphony Orchestra concerts. When her bow and hair go flying, listeners go on a musical adventure.

“It’s always my pleasure, my bliss to play,” Morris said. “I’ve never spent much energy on building a huge fan base.”

In her performances, she embraces improv as her way to be as enthralled as her listeners regarding what is flowing from her instrument.

“Sometimes, I have no idea what I’m going to play,” she said of her spontaneous forays. “And actually, though I’d like to think I have a responsible filter, sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to say.”

She laughed. She regularly has mentioned that her dad taught her that music should be exciting and fun. And tossing aside a set list and sheet music still seems pretty fun and exciting for a woman who loves her variety.

Getting your fill of food and music

What: 18th Annual Empty Bowls fundraiser for Columbus’ Love Chapel, Community Center of Hope food bank and Turning Point Domestic Violence Services in Columbus.

When: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 6.

Where: Central Middle School. 725 Seventh St. in Columbus.

Admission: $12 to $25 per adult (includes a handmade, keepsake bowl).

Information: Sarah Grey at 812-376-8102 or

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.