Early years and education
Wendell Logan was born in Thomson, Georgia on November 24, 1940. His first musical studies were with his father, an amateur alto saxophonist. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in music in 1962 from the historically black Florida A&M University, which he had attended on a football scholarship. At Florida A&M in 1962, Logan heard Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite for the first time. This initial exposure to the twelve-tone technique led Logan to undertake a path leading to a career as a composer. He earned a master's degree in music in 1964 from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and was awarded a Ph.D. in music theory and composition in 1968 from the University of Iowa.
After graduating from college, Logan served on the faculties of Ball State University, Florida A&M University and Western Illinois University, before joining the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1973, where he eventually become chairman of the jazz studies department and professor of African-American music. When Logan first arrived at Oberlin, jazz was exclusively an extracurricular activity. Dr. Logan began teaching jazz music shortly after joining Oberlin, forming the Oberlin Jazz Ensemble in 1973. Logan developed a curriculum for a jazz major in 1989, and by 1991 he helped modify Oberlin's admission standards to allow students to be selected for admission to the conservatory based on their talent as jazz performers.
In addition to playing soprano saxophone and trumpet, Logan composed both jazz and concert music. Among his concert works are the 1989 "Runagate, Runagate" based on a poem by Robert Hayden about a fugitive slave and "Doxology Opera: The Doxy Canticles" in 2001 which features a libretto by Paul Carter Harrison. Logan's music has been recorded on Orion Records and other labels.
Logan believed that being described as a "black composer" was a two-edged sword. He would have preferred music by African-American composers to simply be performed alongside works by other composers. Regarding that distinction, he remarked: "No one is asking for a special day: 'Here's the day for black American composers.' That's kind of demeaning. But it's better than nothing". On his Oberlin College profile, Logan described jazz as "our classical music" and said that it "belongs here just as much as Americans belong on this soil."
Recognition and final years
A resident of Oberlin, Ohio, Logan died in Cleveland at age 69 on June 15, 2010, after suffering a short illness. He was survived by his wife, the former Bettye Reese, as well as by a daughter, a son and four grandchildren.
- Fox, Margalit. "Wendell Logan, Composer of Jazz and Concert Music, Dies at 69", The New York Times, June 22, 2010. Accessed June 24, 2010.
- Janas, Marci. "Wendell Logan, Legendary Founder of Oberlin’s Jazz Studies Department, Dies at 69", Oberlin College News, June 17, 2010. Accessed June 24, 2010.
- Lewis, Zachary. "Oberlin Conservatory of Music's Wendell Logan builds a foundation for jazz", The Plain Dealer, May 30, 2010. Accessed June 24, 2010.
- Wolff, Carlo. "Wendell Logan, Jazz Composer and Educator, Dies: Logan brought jazz to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music", JazzTimes, June 16, 2010.
- Wendell Logan profile, Oberlin College. Accessed June 24, 2010.