News / Arts & Entertainment

    Conductor Courts Diverse Audiences

    Michael Morgan giving a lecture and master class to students at the Conservatory of Vocal and Instrumental Arts, a music charter school in Oakland, California. (J. Mar/VOA).
    Michael Morgan giving a lecture and master class to students at the Conservatory of Vocal and Instrumental Arts, a music charter school in Oakland, California. (J. Mar/VOA).
    As one of the few openly gay, African-American conductors in the United States Michael Morgan is a rarity in the world of classical music. 

    He has been music director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony in California for 22 years and has worked with some of the great conductors of the 20th century, including Leonard Bernstein, Gunther Schuller and George Solti.  

    However, it is Morgan's mission is to bring classical music to everyone, especially to diverse audiences who have traditionally been under-represented in the concert hall.
     
    Morgan believes introducing music to young students is key to attracting more people of color to classical music. He knows firsthand. By the time he reached third grade, knowing he wanted to be a conductor, Morgan started taking piano lessons. His parents nurtured his interest.
    Classical Music Conductor Courts Diverse Audiences
    Classical Music Conductor Courts Diverse Audiencesi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X


    "My father was very active in the schools when my sister and I were in public schools in Washington D.C.," Morgan says. "Both of my parents were seeing to it that those schools were as good as those schools could be, including getting a lot of music education through the schools. And if you go to a lot of symphony orchestras, I think most of the people in them started in a public school somewhere."

    However, at many public schools today, budget cuts have reduced or eliminated music programs. But it remains a high priority for Morgan.

    Under his leadership, the Oakland East Bay Symphony allocates one-third of its budget to music education and brings orchestral music to thousands of children in local schools. When he's not conducting, Morgan devotes much of his spare time visiting schools and talking to students.
    Michael Morgan conducts the Oakland East Bay Symphony in California. (Pat Johnson)Michael Morgan conducts the Oakland East Bay Symphony in California. (Pat Johnson)
    x
    Michael Morgan conducts the Oakland East Bay Symphony in California. (Pat Johnson)
    Michael Morgan conducts the Oakland East Bay Symphony in California. (Pat Johnson)

    "I love dealing with middle school, high school, and even elementary school musicians whenever I can," he says. "It's just something I have always liked to do. I find it so rewarding to watch the kids learn, watch their faces when they get something right. I just consider it part of my job and do it whenever I can."

    Morgan is also working to attract diverse audiences to Oakland's concerts.  

    To that end, he has expanded the orchestra’s repertoire and collaborated with musicians outside the classical realm, including from the world of jazz, rock, Afro-Cuban and even electronica.

    "My idea has always been to play the unusual music next to the standard repertory that orchestras play all the time, not just because of the contrasts and the comparisons you can make between the new and the old, the familiar and the unfamiliar, but also because the audiences for the different kinds of musics will be brought together into the same room to watch concerts. So it's very conscious community building."

    Filipino jazz pianist Victor Noriega recently made his Oakland symphony debut, after Morgan commissioned him to compose his first symphonic work for the orchestra. It's part of Morgan's effort to connect with diverse communities. He has programmed concerts featuring musicians and original works from Iran, China, Armenia and the Philippines.

    "It's very important to me that we use the Oakland East Bay Symphony to pull this diverse fractious community together, because to me, that's a major public good that a symphony orchestra can do beyond Beethoven, Brahms, and the other people we play all the time."

    Morgan's efforts at inclusion and community building are starting to make a difference. Audiences for the Oakland East Bay Symphony are now more ethnically diverse than those in many other cities. Next season, Morgan is planning programs highlighting musicians from India and the Middle East.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.