Story by Pamela A. Keene
If his first 20 years are any indication, Logan Souther will have a hugely successful career as an orchestral conductor. The 22-year-old piano performance major at Georgia State University set his sights on a becoming a conductor in his mid-teens, and he’s right on track.
He’s an admitted late-comer to classical music, playing the clarinet and bassoon in the Flowery Branch Middle School Band and adding piano studies to his repertoire a couple of years later. “I didn’t grow up around classical music but as early as 12 years old, I knew that classical music was what I wanted to do,” Logan says. “And as I learned more about the real role of a conductor, I saw it as a way to bring all the different fields of music together.”
Logan decided by age 16 that his true career goal was conducting orchestras. As a musician, he competed in All-State and District band contests and as he began to think about college, he chose Georgia State.
About that time, he also found his mentor Michael Palmer, former associate director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the late Robert Shaw.
“I reached out to several conductors within an hour’s drive of Gainesville and Mr. Palmer was one of only two who responded at all,” Logan says. “He called and asked me to come sit in on a rehearsal and that we’d talk afterwards. After that, we started out meeting one to two times each week and he has been so generous with his time, his guidance and advice. Now, we meet for coffee or lunch. He really has helped me understand the role of a conductor.”
For many laypeople, the conductor is the glamour job, the visible thread that brings the orchestra together. “But that’s not so,” Logan says. “The composer’s role is to have respect for the art of the composer and not project your own personality into the performances. We work to pull the sounds from the orchestra and showcase their work. It’s really a selfless approach.”
Logan didn’t wait until he got older to embark on his conducting career. Two years ago, he established the Gainesville Sinfonietta, a group of professional musicians in North Georgia that presents a classical music concert annually at the church where Logan grew up, Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Church. So far, the majority of funding for the Sinfonietta has come from the church, although the program is not officially part of the church’s ministries.
“To find musicians, I connected with a person who works like a personnel manager and contracts with professionals,” he says. “We typically have between 22 and 26 musicians when we perform.” Logan does much of the preparation work on the musical scores, from charting bowing for the strings to clarifying tempos and dynamics.
“We only have two rehearsals before we perform and the first half of each two-and-a-half-hour session is spent working with the strings. Then we add the winds and it all comes together.”
The Sunday afternoon fall concerts have featured works by Mozart and Respighi. An all-Bach program showcased works by J.S. Bach and his son C.P.E. Bach.
Logan says his goal is to start a summer series for the Sinfonietta. He’s also attending Georgia State full time, working toward his master’s degree and looking toward earning his doctorate.
“Right now, our budget is not that big,” he says, “but we’re at the stage of needing a team of about 10 people in Gainesville who can help us with growth and funding.”
Logan says that the church has set up an account to receive and process donations for the Sinfonietta. He also encourages interested people to call him at 678-677-5059 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.