OAKLAND, Calif. - Bay Area music lovers honored the life of Michael Morgan Tuesday with a ‘We Remember Michael’ memorial concert at the Paramount Theatre. It was a full house, filled with people who were mentored and inspired by Morgan over the 30 years he was the Oakland Symphony's music director and conductor.
Morgan died suddenly in August from an infection, just months after a successful kidney transplant.
More than 250 performers took the stage Tuesday night, and all of them had a special connection with Morgan.
"Michael actually started my entire career in 5th grade," said Yelley Taylor, a professional violinist who performed with the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra. "He was a mentor, he’d been part of my life since I was about 8."
It wasn't just Morgan's love of music, but his passion for passing that on to the next generation, that created his legacy in Oakland.
"He transformed this community, not just the orchestra and the music community, but he was active in all of the schools. He was active as a civic leader, in government. He advocated for music education in the schools. And he was just really present, this was his home," said Executive Director of the Oakland Symphony Mieko Hatano.
Morgan's legacy will live on through his students, like Jesse Barrett, who he pushed to pursue a career in music.
"When I got into school in Boston he flew me there and took me to a Broadway show and saw me off to school and said 'good luck.' And he was there for me every call, every text, anything I ever needed ," said Barrett.
But what was so special about Morgan is that people who didn't even know him, felt like his friend.
"He was such a charmer. Whenever he spoke about the music, he was so enthusiastic," said longtime Oakland Symphony supporter Brenda Fitzpatrick. "I’ve been to quite a number of concerts here, and I kind of felt like I knew him."
Morgan's performances and musical tastes were unique.
"He always brought people out that you didn’t expect, and he brought children out," said Fitzpatrick. "It was always a surprise. It was never boring."
That's because Morgan liked to mixed the classics with new music.
"He loved every genre, he loved Broadway, he loved hip hop, jazz, everything. And so on his stage you’d find just this eclectic group of different artists and different genres all coming together and performing together," said Hatano.
This brought new eyes and ears to the orchestra, and that mission will continue with the help of musicians he mentored.
"You just 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, that’s always going to be," said Hatano.
Morgan's legacy will also live on through a new children's book about his life. The book was just released Tuesday, and will also available on the Oakland Symphony website.