OAKLAND, California – Bay Area music lovers honored the life of Michael Morgan on Tuesday with a âWe Remember Michaelâ memorial concert at the Paramount Theater. It was a packed house, filled with people who were mentored and inspired by Morgan during his 30 years as Music Director and Conductor of the Oakland Symphony.
Morgan died suddenly in August from an infection, just months after a successful kidney transplant.
Over 250 artists took to the stage on Tuesday night, and all of them had a special connection to Morgan.
âMichael actually started my entire career in 5th grade,â said Yelley Taylor, a professional violinist who has performed with the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra. “He was a mentor, he had been a part of my life since I was about 8 years old.”
It was not only Morgan’s love for music, but his passion for passing it on to the next generation, that created his legacy in Oakland.
âHe transformed this community, not just the orchestra and the music community, but he was active in all schools. He was active as a civic leader, in government. He advocated for music education in schools. And he was really really there, it was his home, âsaid Oakland Symphony executive director Mieko Hatano.
Morgan’s legacy will live on through his students, like Jesse Barrett, whom he pushed to pursue a career in music.
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âWhen I got into school in Boston, he brought me over there and took me to a Broadway show and walked me to school and said ‘good luck.’ And he was there for me on every call, every text, whatever I needed, âBarrett said.
But what was so special about Morgan was that people who didn’t even know him felt like his friend.
âHe was such a charmer. Every time he talked about music he was so enthusiastic,â said Brenda Fitzpatrick, longtime supporter of the Oakland Symphony. “I’ve been to quite a few concerts here, and I felt like I knew him.”
Morgan’s performances and musical tastes were unique.
âHe’s always brought out people you didn’t expect, and he’s brought out kids,â Fitzpatrick said. “It was always a surprise. It was never boring.”
This is because Morgan liked to mix the classics with new music.
“He loved all genres, he loved Broadway, he loved hip hop, jazz, everything. And so on his stage you would only find this eclectic group of artists and different genres coming together and performing together.” , said Hatano.
This has brought new eyes and ears to the orchestra, and this mission will continue with the help of the musicians he mentored.
âYou never know what you’re going to find on the Oakland Symphony stage and that’s what’s going to continue as Michael’s legacy, it’s always going to be,â Hatano said.
Morgan’s legacy will also live on through a new children’s book about his life. The book was just released on Tuesday and will also be available on the Oakland Symphony website.