Saturday, May 25, 2019

In memoriam: Longtime UTSA faculty member and beloved jazz musician Morgan King passes away

In memoriam: Longtime UTSA faculty member and beloved jazz musician Morgan King passes away

King joined the UTSA faculty in 1995 and specialized in jazz studies and music theory.

(June 20,2018) -- Clarence Morgan King, Jr., senior lecturer in the UTSA Department of Music, passed away on June 13 at age 63. A brilliant and passionate musician, King specialized in jazz studies and music theory and brought a wealth of music industry experience to the department.

King joined the UTSA faculty in 1992 and taught a number of undergraduate courses over the past two decades that appealed to both music and non-music majors alike, including the History and Styles of Jazz, Aural and Basic Skills, Jazz Skills, Jazz Improvisation, Jazz Ensemble, History and Styles of Rock, Introduction to the Music Industry, and Fundamentals of Music for the Non-Major. Known for his enthusiastic storytelling, King engaged students with fascinating stories about every composer and musician discussed in class.

“He was kind, generous, dependable and had a great sense of humor,” shared Susan Dill, UTSA associate professor of music and close friend. “Morgan had many friends. He cultivated friendships and worked to maintain them. He had a razor-sharp intellect, was well read in a variety of subjects, and could wax poetically on everything from John Coltrane and the jazz masters, to the Boston Red Socks, to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”  

He worked closely with the music marketing students who led the development of Rowdy Radio. King also served on departmental committees that shaped the university’s jazz studies certificate program, minor in jazz studies and its music marketing programs.

UTSA professor emeritus and close friend Jim Balentine recalls King’s contributions to UTSA.

“Morgan was a musician above all - being a teacher, theorist, writer and performer were all subsets of that. He defined the Jazz Skills class, and without Morgan, UTSA would not have had any sort of jazz program. His private studio before UTSA also produced a number of very successful professional players and educators, including Rob Hardt (Los Angeles), Patrick Cornelius (New York), and our own Adrian Ruiz.”

King received his bachelor’s in music from Berklee College of Music and completed independent studies at the Boston Conservatory of Music. He later earned his master’s degree from Texas State University. He was a professional member of the International Association of Jazz Educators and the American Federation of Musicians. His legacy also includes hundreds of invitations to be a clinician, adjudicator, and guest soloist with area colleges, high schools, and middle schools.

“The description of Morgan’s playing I heard most often was ‘brilliant’ – brilliant technique, brilliant improvisation and brilliant artistry,” said Dill. “He never rested on his laurels and continued a diligent practice schedule throughout his career.”

Early in his career, King toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under the direction of Buddy Morrow and made European and Far East tours with Eartha Kitt. As a freelance musician he had the opportunity to perform with notable entertainers such as Mel Torme, Bob Hope, Johnny Mathis, Sara Vaughn, Ray Charles, and many others. Locally he was a highly sought-after freelance musician who played Broadway shows at the Majestic Theater and performed with a variety of local and touring groups that frequent San Antonio jazz clubs, including his own Morgan King Quartet.

“As a performer, he was meticulous, and practiced for shows (although he could sight read better than most everyone else could play the parts after practicing),” shared Balentine. “He was always first call woodwind 1 for shows - piccolo, flute, clarinet, saxophone - but his main instrument was tenor sax. I remember intermissions at shows when he and Rob Hardt and I would play flute trios for fun...who needs breaks anyway?”

There will be gathering of family, friends, and students to celebrate King’s life from 7 to 10 p.m. on Monday, June 25 at LUNA Music Bar & Lounge, located at 6740 San Pedro Avenue, San Antonio, Tex. 78216.

In his memory, the UTSA Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs has arranged for a book to be donated to the UTSA Libraries. Additionally, King and others will be honored by the UTSA community in the spring at the annual Roadrunner Remembrance ceremony. 

- K.C. Gonzalez

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