Concert to Salute HSPVA's Robert "Doc" Morgan

January 31, 2008
by Claudia Morlan

Saturday, March 1 will be a memorable day for Dr. Robert Morgan, Director of Jazz Studies Emeritus, High School for Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA). HSPVA and Morgan will be honored during a free concert at Discovery Green featuring some of the school’s most accomplished former students. The event, entitled “One for Doc” is a preview of the new downtown park, which opens in early April, 2008 and is located in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The Discovery Green Conservancy places a high regard on education, the performing arts and other cultural endeavors in Houston. Dr. Robert Morgan and High School for Performing and Visual Arts were selected as honorees for the preview event.

“Discovery Green's mission includes highlighting the amazing range of artistic talent we have in Houston with a special focus on education,” said Guy Hagstette, president of Discovery Green. “We cannot imagine a better of way of introducing ourselves to Houston than by celebrating HSPVA, Dr. Robert Morgan's legacy in music education, and the artistic talent of those who studied under him.”

The concert will begin at 6:00 p.m. on the Anheuser-Busch Stage and feature many musicians inspired by Morgan when they were students of his at High School for Performing and Visual Arts. One such student, popular local entertainer, Scott Gertner, will co-emcee the event with KPRC Channel 2’s Dominique Sachse and HSPVA alumni will be featured in headline performances by Grammy-award winning artists La Mafia and Al Jarreau.

“The opening of Discovery Green is an incredibly significant event for downtown Houston, and it is a high honor for me and HSPVA to be the honorees for the opening concert,” acknowledged Morgan.

Morgan is a native Houstonian and became enamored of music at a very young age. His father, William A. Morgan, Sr. was a noted musician, drawn to the popular Dixieland/swing music of his era. He played saxophone for Houston’s Herb Stallings Orchestra, later forming his own band, performing at many of the most frequented nightspots in Houston, including Sylvan Beach Pavilion and Rice Hotel. Morgan was forced out of the music business by the Depression and its aftermath, which greatly curtailed job opportunities, but the bug had become firmly planted in his son, who recalls the joy of performing in the three-piece family band, with dad on alto sax, his brother Bill, tenor sax and Morgan on trumpet.

Morgan received his BA in Music at the University of North Texas, ’63 and followed that up with two graduate degrees, earning his Master of Music, Univ. of North Texas, ’65 and PhD, at the Univ. of Illinois/Urbana, ’74.

In 1976, he joined the faculty of the High School for Performing and Visual Arts HSPVA as Director of Jazz Studies and held that position until his retirement in 1999. He recalls that his intent was to remain at the school for a few years before moving to the next phase of his career. That quickly changed when he became involved with the students and their commitment to music.

“Teaching at HSPVA was an incredible experience,” Morgan said. “I accepted the position thinking I would be there 2-3 years, but I fell in love with the place and had a ball for 23 years.”

It was during Morgan’s tenure at HSPVA that the jazz program began receiving international notice. In January 2005, Morgan was inducted into the International Association for Jazz Education Hall of Fame for his accomplishments at HSPVA and his long-held devotion to training young musicians.

Morgan has received numerous honors since retiring from HSPVA in 1999, including the distinction of being named Honorary. Doctor of Music, Berklee College of Music (Boston), ’99, but admits that the “One for Doc” concert on March 1, will be an emotional evening.

“I have been fortunate to receive several honors in my career and each has been very special,” admitted Morgan. “But to be surrounded by so many of my ex-students and hear them perform, I know it will be very emotional for me.”

The schedule for the “One for Doc” Discovery Green’s Park Preview Concert is as follows:

6 pm
 Straight Ahead Jam Session with HSPVA All Stars
*Warren Sneed, saxophone; *Shelley Carrol, saxophone; *Brandon Lee, trumpet; *Andrew Lienhard, piano; *David Craig, bass; *Sebastian Whittaker, drums

7 pm
Houston's First Lady Andrea White presents proclamation to Dr. Robert Morgan

7:15 pm
Robert Glasper/Chris Dave Experiment – *Robert Glasper, piano; *Chris Dave, drums; *Mark Kelley, bass; Casey Benjamin, saxophone/vocalist; Lionel Loueke, guitar/vocalist

8 pm
La Mafia featuring *Tim Ruiz, bass; ex-drummer *Michael Aguilar, drums

9 pm 
*Chris Walker with the Everette Harp Band

9:10 pm
Everette Harp and Friends – *Everette Harp, saxophone; *Gregory Curtis, keyboard; *Keith Vivens, bass; Dwight Sills, guitar; Mark Stephens, keyboard

Immediately following will be Al Jarreau featuring *Mark Simmons, drums

(HSPVA alumni performing are noted with *)