Michael Morgan was born in 1957 and raised in Washington, D.C., where he attended public schools. He attended McKinley Tech High School and was affiliated with the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program but began conducting at the age of 12. While a student at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music (studying composition) he spent a summer at Tanglewood. There he was a student of Gunther Schuller and Seiji Ozawa and it was at that time that he first worked with Leonard Bernstein.
In 1980, he won first prize in the Hans Swarovsky International Conductors Competition in Vienna and became Assistant Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin. His operatic debut was in 1982 at the Vienna State Opera in Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio. In 1986, Georg Solti chose him to become the Assistant Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for five years under Solti and Daniel Barenboim. He became music director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony in 1990. Maestro Morgan serves as artistic director of the Oakland Youth Orchestra and was the music director of the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra (and the Sacramento Opera) from 1999-2015 and artistic director of Festival Opera in Walnut Creek, California, for more than 10 seasons.
In 2005 he was honored by the San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy with the 2005 Governors Award for Community Service. On the opposite coast, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) chose Morgan as one of its five 2005 Concert Music Award recipients. ASCAP further honored the Oakland East Bay Symphony in 2006 with its Award for Adventurous Programming. The San Francisco Foundation honored him with one of its Community Leadership Awards and he received an Honorary Doctorate from Holy Names University in Oakland. In 2014 he gave a TEDx Talk and was featured by Musical America as one of their “Profiles of Courage.”
He has served on the boards of the League of American Orchestras and the International House at the University of California, Berkeley, and the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts. Currently he is on the boards of the Purple Silk Music Education Foundation, the Oaktown Jazz Workshops, and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute.