Michael DeVard Morgan was born on September 17, 1957. His life, which spanned over six decades, was dedicated to the enchanting world of music, and his legacy as a conductor continues to inspire and resonate with audiences worldwide. Michael DeVard Morgan passed away on August 20, 2021.
Early Life and Education
Michael Morgan was born and raised in the vibrant city of Washington, D.C. He grew up in a household where education and curiosity were cherished values. His father, Willie DeVard Morgan, was a biologist, and his mother, Mabel Morgan, was a health researcher.
Michael’s journey into the world of music commenced at an early age when he began playing the piano at the tender age of 8. His natural skill was evident, and by the age of 12, he was already in charge of two orchestras: one at his local church and one at MacFarland Junior High School.
Morgan continued his schooling at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C., where he developed his directing abilities while serving as the conductor of the D.C. Youth Orchestra. He then went on to the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music to further his studies.
Despite not receiving a degree from Oberlin, his stay there had a significant impact on how his career developed. He got the opportunity to study under renowned instructors like Gunther Schuller and Seiji Ozawa during a life-changing summer at the Oberlin College Conservatory in Tanglewood.
As an apprentice conductor with the Buffalo Philharmonic in 1979, Michael Morgan began his career and laid the foundation for one that would lead him to the top of the world music scene. His victory in the famous Hans Swarovsky International Conductors Competition in Vienna, Austria, in 1980 marked a key turning point in his career.
His career was propelled by this triumph, and he quickly rose to the position of Assistant Conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, working under the renowned conductor Leonard Slatkin. In Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” Michael Morgan made his operatic debut in 1982 at the Vienna State Opera, establishing his status as a major figure in the classical music community.
He was chosen by the legendary conductor Georg Solti to serve as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Assistant Conductor in 1986, a post he retained for five years while assisting both Solti and Daniel Barenboim.
Beginning in 1991, a pivotal period in his career was defined by his position as the music director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony.
He had an enduring influence on the orchestra, the neighborhood, and the classical music community as a whole throughout his astounding 30-year tenure as the music director. He was not only the creative director of the Oakland Youth Orchestra but also the music director of the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra and the artistic director of Festival Opera in Walnut Creek, California.
What was Michael Morgan’s illness?
Health issues plagued Morgan in his later years. He received daily dialysis for his kidneys for seven years. He underwent a kidney transplant in May 2021, giving him hope for a better future. He tragically passed away on August 20, 2021, at the age of 63, from an illness.