San Francisco Bay Area based composer and jazz bassist, Ravi Abcarian, started learning guitar at the age of seven and began playing bass when his high school jazz band director challenged him to switch from electric guitar to upright bass.

Ravi went on to join the house band for a weekly jam session at famed jazz venue, Yoshi’s Oakland. There, he met and began working with many of the Bay Area’s great musicians, including Faye Carol, Edwin Kelly, and Smiley Winters. By his mid-twenties he was busy performing a wide range of gigs from small clubs and cafés in Oakland and San Francisco to regional jazz festivals.

In 1997 Ravi was invited to join the Oakland, CA based nonprofit organization, Oaktown Jazz Workshops (OJW), as a bass instructor by Founding Director, Khalil Shaheed. Shortly after, Ravi was promoted to the position of Educational Director.  In 2011, Ravi was appointed Executive Director of OJW by Mr. Shaheed and the OJW Board of Directors.

Ravi has more than 20 years of teaching experience through his role as the Artistic Director of “The Richmond Jazz Collective,” a resident company at The East Bay Center for Performing Arts in Richmond, CA where he taught from 1993 to 2013, as a school music teacher for grades K-12, and teaching individual bass and guitar lessons at his home studio. He also enjoys working as a sideman, as is evidenced by his extensive experience accompanying artists ranging from legendary tap dancer Fayard Nicholas (of the Nicholas Brothers) and vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock to tenor saxophonists Chico Freeman, Joshua Redman and Sonny Simmons.


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A Tribute to Michael Morgan

Photo © David De Hart
Michael Morgan and KCSM’s Jesse “Chuy” Varela greet each other onstage at Oaktown Jazz Workshops’ 25th Anniversary Celebration.

When I first began teaching at Oaktown Jazz in 1997 Michael Morgan and Oaktown Jazz Workshops’ (OJW) Founding Director, Khalil Shaheed, had just completed a collaboration that featured OJW’s young jazz musicians playing a tribute to John Coltrane with the Oakland Symphony. The concert was a success but there was a clear sense of urgency to do more for the youth of Oakland as schools were locking up their instruments and cutting music programs.

Michael Morgan began presenting school assemblies across the Bay Area that featured both a string quartet from Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra and a jazz combo from Oaktown Jazz. He began to invite OJW’s young musicians to perform before the Oakland Symphony’s concerts at the Paramount Theater and Fourth of July Celebrations, creating many magical experiences for our young musicians.

In 1999 Michael Morgan joined Oaktown Jazz Workshops’ Board of Directors and always made himself available to support our organization and students – an unofficial pathway to his alma mater, Oberlin Conservatory, was created for many of OJW’s musicians.

Oakland began changing rapidly with waves of tech and real estate bubbles but Michael Morgan’s support of youth and those that advocated for them remained constant.

As an OJW Board Member, his guidance was invaluable as he had an amazing ability to find solutions to issues far away on the horizon and keep the focus on offering high quality music education to young people. His input at our last board meeting regarding Covid-19 safety protocols is now part of every workshop and class we offer.

Michael Morgan believed in the young people of our community and the power of music to change lives.

Rest in Peace Michael Morgan.

Ravi Abcarian, Oaktown Jazz Workshops’ Executive Director

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