One of Betsy Bright Morgan’s ’03 high school teachers encouraged her to choose Shenandoah University. After several visits and meeting some of the musicians on campus, she knew it was a good fit for her.
“Shenandoah is such a supportive community,” said Morgan. “The professors there are first rate and they care deeply about the students. During the four years I spent at Shenandoah, I felt the community grow around me and I felt lifted up by my classmates. This feeling continues today, as I still feel very connected to the friends I made there. Their support and encouragement allowed me to take artistic risks that led me to personal growth.”
One of Morgan’s fondest memories of Shenandoah was the joy of playing difficult music with friends and feeling the rush of a great performance after weeks of hard work. She still thinks of those times when she revisits those same pieces years later.
Morgan’s primary job is to play second trumpet for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (TSO). This is a core position in the orchestra, which includes playing in the TSO brass quintet, and she performs 185 services per season. In addition to this position, she is a member of the Monsoon Brass and True Concord Voices & Orchestra and is a freelance performer, teacher and administrator. During the past few years, Morgan has also performed as a substitute/extra with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Saint Louis Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Opera, as well as many other assorted ensembles in the Southwest.
As a teacher, she has a private trumpet studio, where she has about 10 to 15 students. In addition, Morgan is the personnel manager for the Tucson Symphony, dealing mostly with musician leave requests and sub hiring, which keeps her on her toes. She is also the director of Tucson Brass Workshop, a summer program which she founded in 2015. This is a one-week intensive chamber music seminar that is open to all ages. “This is something that brings me great joy during the summer,” said Morgan. “I recruit the students, organize all of the chamber ensembles and activities, plan seminars, compose arrangements of music for many of the ensembles, and then coach alongside my fellow faculty.”
Some of Morgan’s most rewarding experiences in her career have been performing with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony and the San Diego Symphony. And of course, being a teacher is extremely rewarding for Morgan as well. She loves to see her students go off and become successful.
Morgan’s education from Shenandoah prepared her in more ways than she could ever articulate. Her music theory and aural skills classes, paired with the courses taught by her history and form professors, made her feel comfortable with every academic demand of orchestral life. She then gained valuable knowledge and skills from the diverse range of music she played during her time at Shenandoah. This included a wide variety of orchestra, jazz ensemble, musical theater pit orchestra, opera, brass quintet, brass choir and recitals.
“All of these things gave me invaluable experience that still gives me confidence today,” said Morgan. “Having to sit in the hot seat and figure things out over and over, but with an abundance of support and encouragement, is the very fuel that helps a young brass player survive and grow.”
Morgan’s advice to students is: “No one can do the work for you. The best thing to do is to find a supportive community and then work like crazy… Lean on the support of that community in every way you can. Cultivate in your mind as vividly as possible exactly what your goal is as a musician. Then, constantly assess where you are in relation to that goal, and be as creative and as persistent as possible in problem-solving your way to finding a path that leads there.”