Lynne Morrow finds the promise in music theater.
First come the words, then the music.” Monteverdi said that as he created new ideas of song and melody for the stage in the 17th century. SSU professor Lynne Morrow keeps that idea alive with her enthusiastic leaps into the arena of musical theater all over the San Francisco Bay Area — from choruses and Broadway musicals to pocket versions of classical operas.
Whether they are glitzy Broadway tunes, an operatic libretto or an avant garde a capella piece with a twist, this conductor and mezzo soprano brings the wide sweep of musical theater to her students.
Several years ago, Morrow founded the Quantum Opera Theatre at SSU where she tries to elevate the “stepchild status” of musical theater with a fresh and innovative approach, presenting productions of classic operas, new works of music theater, and Broadway musicals.
“I believe everyone loves opera,” she says. “They just don’t know it. I want to rekindle the interest that is already there.”
Born and raised in the East Bay, Morrow was asking for piano lessons by age 4, playing the viola at age 8 and the French horn at age 13. She kept her musicianship alive through her adult life as she made a living as a computer programmer for 13 years in Oakland. While working at her day job, Morrow stayed busy in her own time becoming known through the musical community as an excellent music teacher and coach. The Pacific Mozart Ensemble first hired her as a jazz coach.
“She is one of the few people I have met who is truly competent in multiple musical genres from classical, jazz to pop to gospel,” says PME director Dick Grant. “She seems to have the same high level of understanding and ability to teach them all. She has a generous intellect and a broad view and is very easy to work with.”
Morrow has also performed as a mezzo soloist with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the Midsummer Mozart Festival and is the host for the annual summer Stern Grove Music Festival.
At age 40, she decided to pursue her passion full bore and headed to one of the best music conservatories in the nation at Indiana University-Bloomington for graduate studies in opera coaching and choral conducting. Her thesis was on “Porgy and Bess.” With Ph.D. in hand, she was ready to join the SSU faculty in 2001.
“She really is getting to be a star,” says her colleague Jeff Langley, chair of the SSU music department, about Morrow’s recent accomplishments. “She has a very high tolerance for chaos. The world can be falling apart around her and she keeps this incredible calm. She slowly calms everyone else down and pulls the pieces together. She can pull the most amazing things together in an incredibly short period of time.”
Langley notes that Morrow’s widening connections in the Bay Area music world are providing much needed professional exposure for SSU students who can work with the likes of a major tenor like John Duykers who played Chairman Mao in the original production of the opera “Nixon in China.”
“She has managed her growth slow and steady,” says Grant. “She is going to be a very substantial figure in the music scene some day.”
On the set of a production of the Quantum Opera Theatre, Professor Lynne Morrow brings the wide sweep of musical theater to her students.