On this day in 1940, musician Wendell Logan was born in Thomson, Georgia.
Logan’s father, an alto saxophonist, inspired him to pursue musical studies. Logan graduated from the historically black Florida A&M University in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in music. While in school, he heard Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite for the first time. Inspired by Stravinsky’s twelve-tone technique, Logan chose to continue his studies in order to become a composer. In 1964, Logan graduated with a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Four years later, he earned his Ph.D. in music theory and composition from the University of Iowa.
Upon graduation, Logan joined the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Shortly after, he became chairman of the jazz studies department and professor at Oberlin. He began teaching jazz, forming the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble in 1973. By 1991, Logan had played a major role in modifying Oberlin’s admission standards, allowing students to be admitted to the conservatory strictly based on their talent in jazz music.
Logan played the trumpet and soprano saxophone, composing both jazz and concert music. His music was recorded on Orion Records among other labels. He believed that being labeled as a “black composer” was a two-edged sword.
“No one is asking for a special day: ‘Here’s the day for black American composers.’ That’s kind of demeaning,” Logan said. “But it’s better than nothing.”
He described jazz as “our classical music” and stated that it “belongs here just as much as Americans belong on this soil.”
In 1991, Logan was selected for a Guggenheim Fellowship. He died at the age of 69 in Cleveland, Ohio after a brief illness.