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The Bay Area arts and culture community is mourning the news that Michael Morgan, longtime music director and conductor of the Oakland Symphony, passed away last Friday at the age of 63. This fall would have been Morgan’s 30th anniversary leading the orchestra.
During his career, Morgan influenced countless local musicians who performed under his guidance, as well as the larger Oakland community. He is remembered for his joyful laugh, passion for music education, and commitment to social justice.
“This is a terribly sad moment for everyone in the Oakland Symphony family. We have lost our guiding father,” said executive director Mieko Hatano.
Earlier last week, the Oakland Symphony announced that Morgan had to step down from conducting the anticipated Summer Stage free concerts at Brooklyn Basin because he had been hospitalized with an infection. Morgan had undergone a kidney transplant back in May. In his place, guest conductor John Kendall Bailey opened up the inaugural show.
Maestro Morgan did have several recent public appearances, however, including as a guest conductor of the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall on July 23, and at the Bear Valley Music Festival on July 29 and Aug. 1.
“We are honored to have had that experience,” the Bear Valley Music Festival board of directors wrote in a statement “Michael has left an indelible imprint on Bear Valley forever and will be terribly missed.”
Oaklandside had the opportunity to speak with Morgan earlier this year about the Oakland Symphony’s work supporting social justice and amplifying diverse voices through his programming. He viewed his work as a way to bring people from all backgrounds together in a space where people of color have often been excluded.
An outpouring of heartfelt messages about Morgan’s influence and impact has flooded social media over the past few days. Here are a few.
Correction: Matthew Shilvock is the general director at the San Francisco Opera.