Billy Norris hails from Seminole, located in the Tampa Bay region of Florida’s west coast. He is currently on an international tour with J Records Platinum recording artist Gavin DeGraw as Gavin's lead guitarist and background vocalist.
Prior to touring with Gavin, Billy completed three years of the Jazz Program at Manhattan School of Music in New York City pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz (Bass) Performance and studying with bassist Harvie S and drummer John Riley.
His musical interests started at a young age but took a more serious turn when his dad handed down one of his own guitars to Billy when he was about eight or nine. Formal lessons followed a year later with guitarist Dave Arazmo (with whom he studied for the next six years), and things snowballed from there. Electric bass came next, then the upright. Drums and piano just happened along the way, then he figured out that he could sing, too. He worked simultaneously to develop his two main musical interests: jazz bass & blues guitar, while also playing drums in the contemporary praise band at Anona United Methodist Church.
By the time he was entering high school, the buzz was that this kid could play! Whether it was at a local blues jam, or at a jazz workshop led by Chick Corea, people were taking notice. He started a blues band and began pursuing his inner jazz animal even more aggressively. He spent his high school years studying bass with Mark Neuenschwander, an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg College and Eckerd College. Mark became a good friend and mentor to Billy and played an integral role in his development as a well-rounded musician.
He attended summer programs that became increasingly more intense and exclusive every year. Summer of 2005, he attended Berklee College’s Inaugural Summer Jazz Workshop, which was comprised of seven hand-picked high school jazz students from around the country working under the direction of drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and saxophonist Rick DiMuzio. While there, he studied with bassist John Lockwood. He was also accepted into the Brubeck Institute's Summer Jazz Colony that year.
A pivotal point in Billy’s musical life came in 2005 when he earned a spot in the prestigious Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensembles, a group of 29 high school students from all over the continent who are invited to participate in a 10-day, all-expenses paid whirlwind adventure in Los Angeles performing at events surrounding the 46th Annual Grammy Awards. It also led to an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman as a member of the Grammy Jazz Combo. It was an experience that he was able to repeat as a high school senior when he was selected for a 2nd time and attended the 47th Annual Grammy Awards and all of the associated events.
Many of the students who participate in the Grammy Jazz Ensembles go on to receive scholarships to one or more of the Grammy Foundation’s partner schools: Manhattan School of Music, Berklee College of Music, Thornton School of Music at USC, Los Angeles and New School University in NYC. Such was the case for Billy; he gratefully accepted a full-tuition scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music, his #1 choice.
In fall of 2007, Billy was selected as the recipient of the Joseph McCrindle Foundation Scholarship for his “outstanding talent and academic achievement,” during his freshman year at MSM.
In September of 2008, Billy was awarded the Joseph McCrindle Foundation Scholarship for the 2nd consecutive year.
Among the artists Billy has had the pleasure of performing/jamming with:
Stefon Harris, Harvie S, Chick Corea, Buster Cooper, Eric Darius, Jason Moran, Christian McBride, Anton Fig, John Hendricks, Benny Golson, Dave Koz, Jon Secada, Eric Marienthal, Kirk Whalum, Kurt Elling, Al Jarreau, Barry Harris, Hank Jones, Terri Lyne Carrington, Rick DiMuzio, John Lockwood, Seamus Blake, Danilo Perez, Donny McCaslin, Marcus Strickland, EJ Strickland, Clarence Penn, Chris Duarte, Alan Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Vincent Gardner, Mark Soskin, Bobby Sanabria, Candido Camero, Bob Mintzer, Cecil Bridgewater, Phil Markowitz, Steve Wilson, Toninho Horta, Cafe da Silva, Cliff Korman, Gavin DeGraw, Leslie West, Rodney Howard, Tony Tino, Jeff Kazee