Obituary: Oakland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Michael Morgan Dies at 63

By David Salazar

Conductor Michael Morgan died August 20 at Oakland Kaiser. He was 63-years-old.

Morgan, who had been the Music Director of the Oakland Symphony since 1991, had been admitted to the hospital last week for an infection. He had undergone kidney transplant surgery in May and had gone back to work shortly thereafter.

Morgan was born in Washington, D.C. and showed prodigious talents, conducting as early as 12-years-old. He studied at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood and first worked that summer with Leonard Bernstein. His operatic debut took place at the Vienna State Opera and he would go on to lead operas with such companies as the New York City Opera, the St. Louis Opera House, and the Washington National Opera.

In 1986, he was chosen as Assistant Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and in that same year Bernstein invited him to make his debut with the New York Philharmonic. In addition to his performances with the Oakland Symphony, Morgan was the conductor of the Oakland Youth Symphony Orchestra, Music Director at Bear Valley Music Festival, and Director Emeritus of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera.

“Our entire organization is grieving a profound loss,” said Jim Hasler, the Oakland Symphony’s Board Chair, in a press release. “Michael’s impact on our community and the national orchestra field cannot be overstated – and he has left us too soon.  We have been blessed over the past 30 years, as Michael built the foundations of an Oakland Symphony dedicated to diversity, education, artistic collaboration and a celebration of music across genres and cultures.  His vision of orchestras as service organizations was a beacon locally and nationally.  This vision is his legacy, and the Oakland Symphony, Chorus, and Youth Orchestra will renew his commitment for years to come.”