J. Wayne Baughman, founder and music director of the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra, passed away on Tuesday. (c Ken Ortloff)

Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra founder, J. Wayne Baughman, passes away, leaving a lasting musical legacy

EarRelevant Staff | 15 NOV 2023

Johns Creek, GA— On Tuesday evening, the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra announced the passing of its visionary founder and music director, J. Wayne Baughman. Recognized as a trailblazer in the cultural arts of Atlanta’s north suburban Johns Creek community, Baughman’s passing leaves a profound void in that city’s local arts scene that resonates deeply. The orchestra is actively accepting donations in his memory, and plans for a public memorial service to honor Baughman’s life are underway, with details to be announced.

Arriving in Atlanta in 1974, Baughman joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, where he played various roles over 25 years, including chorus member, vocal soloist, and rehearsal conductor under the late Robert Shaw’s guidance.

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The idea of a professional symphony in Johns Creek began to take shape in 1997 as Baughman conducted Handel’s Messiah at Johns Creek United Methodist Church. This vision materialized a decade later. On December 1, 2006, he assembled 42 musicians for the “First Annual St. Benedict Christmas Gala & Holiday Pops Concert,” coinciding with Johns Creek’s cityhood. It was a convincing experience that catalyzed the realization of his dream as the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra was incorporated early in the following year and officially began its journey.

An entirely professional symphony orchestra, the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra has grown over the past 17 years into a premier arts organization in North Fulton County, presenting classical and pop performances along with educational events for Johns Creek audiences, often featuring international performers. Over that time, the budget expanded from $74,000 for a three-concert season to the current annual funding of half a million dollars. Approximately 70% of the current members have been with the orchestra since its inception.

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In addition to his role with the JCSO, Baughman served as Vice President of the Cultural Arts Alliance at Johns Creek and chaired the Legacy Center at Johns Creek Task Force.

On October 3, 2023, the Johns Creek City Council acknowledged Baughman’s dedication and contributions, praising his significant impact on the city’s cultural arts community. Unfortunately, Baughman was unable to be present at the commendation ceremony due to his ongoing battle with late-stage pancreatic cancer; his daughter, Adelaide Federici, read a letter on his behalf during the commendation ceremony, expressing gratitude to the Johns Creek City Council.

Baughman had planned to retire as the JCSO’s music director at the end of the 2023-24 season, but as of this writing, the orchestra has yet to find a successor. However, it remains committed to preserving and carrying forward Baughman’s legacy and continuing to serve the Johns Creek community with excellence.


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