OUSD Mourns Loss of Michael Morgan, Oakland Symphony Music Director and Long-Time Supporter of Oakland Unified Music Students
Oakland – For the last 30 years, there has been no greater advocate for music education in our schools than The Oakland Symphony Maestro Michael Morgan. The Music Education Community in our schools celebrates his life and decades of work in our schools connecting symphonic music to the students of Oakland. He inspired the Music for Excellence (MUSE) bringing countless professional musicians into OUSD’s music classes to work with students weekly to develop skills on their instruments. Morgan inspired three multi-school orchestras including MUSE, MUSE Vivo, and the West Oakland Spirit Orchestra. Every year he was a mainstay at the District’s annual district Orchestra Festival, rehearsing and then conducting the finale with more than 300 middle and high school students from across the district performing together. Michael Morgan passed away at the age of 63 on August 20 at Oakland Kaiser.
“Maestro Morgan was always kind, warm, approachable and the greatest friend to Oakland’s music programs anyone could ever ask for,” said Fillmore Rydeen, OUSD Director of Visual and Performing Arts. “We have been truly blessed by his presence. He will always be remembered, he will always be missed, and most importantly, his impact will always be felt in our schools.”
Numerous OUSD teachers not only got the chance to have Maestro Morgan work with their students, but they also got to work with him professionally. Here is what some of them had to say about Morgan and his impact.
“Michael Morgan took over conducting the orchestra at the SF Conservatory when I was a student there in 1997,” said Jessica Ivry, who teaches music at Manzanita SEED, Manzanita Community and Sequoia elementary schools. “Michael conducted us in Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” and I think I held my breath at every rehearsal and the concert. I sat as assistant principal cellist, and was so nervous to make a mistake. I wish I could practice that hard again!! He was tough but brought out the best in us musically and I saw that repeatedly in his concerts with the Oakland Symphony over the years. Just this past summer, he dropped by to hear how the middle school string players were doing in our rehearsals for the summer strings program and it was very thoughtful of him to be there and give them some feedback. He will be missed!”
“I was lucky to work with Michael Morgan in many capacities,” said Linda Green, who teaches music at Thornhill and Cleveland elementary schools. “I’ve performed many times with the Oakland Symphony, he’s come into my schools at OUSD, and sent out MUSE mentors to work with the students, and I’ve gotten to play in the Gateways Music Festival, which he conducted, and is made up of musicians of African descent. It can’t be overstated how many great things he’s done for OUSD, the Bay Area, and the world. He supported the education of our children, and built community by bringing people together. All of this while being a world class conductor. Thanks for everything, Michael Morgan.”
“The first professional conductor I ever saw on the podium was Michael Morgan and I’ve seen him there like an old friend my whole life,” said Adam Green, Skyline High School music teacher. “I think the moment I appreciate most (and there are many) happened just a month ago. He had posted a status of excitement late one evening that he was finally cleared to drive again following his kidney transplant and warned that we should all beware. Imagine my surprise when the very next morning as I was conducting rehearsal for the Oakland Summer Strings Program, he walked in to spend the day with kids. I couldn’t help but think, ‘Wow, they just gave you freedom last night and THIS is the first place you go?!’ For a man who loved his community, music, and service as much as he did it only makes sense. Thank you, Sir, for all you’ve done and given to the world, music, and me.”
Here’s a write-up of Maestro Morgan’s life, career, and passing from the New York Times. OUSD sends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Maestro Morgan, the Oakland Symphony, and all the Oakland Unified students and staff who had the pleasure of working with him over the past three decades.
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