Appreciation: J. Wayne Baughman’s sustained vision for Johns Creek Symphony

J. Wayne Baughman led the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra from 2007 to 2023.

Credit: Courtesy of Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra

Credit: Courtesy of Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra

J. Wayne Baughman led the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra from 2007 to 2023.

This story was originally published by ArtsATL.

For late maestro J. Wayne Baughman, the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra was his brainchild, his passion and his indelible contribution to the rapidly expanding borough for which it was named.

The fully professional orchestra has been an integral part of Johns Creek culture since 2007 and one that Baughman conducted and helmed in all its capacities until his untimely passing last November.

“Maestro didn’t just file JCSO’s paperwork and walk away,” executive director Linda Brill said at the orchestra’s 2024 fundraising gala. “He was the JCSO’s biggest community champion. Family was always first for maestro Baughman, but after that came the symphony and advancing the cause of cultural arts in our community.”

Those admiring words fall short of fully encapsulating the man: Family and orchestra were one and the same.

“He had the most amazing personality,” said eldest daughter and violinist Adelaide Federici. “He was so charismatic but really sincere and seemed to know everybody. He had this great quality of stoicism. Every day when he would drop us off at school he would say, ‘Have fun, be nice, do good work.’ And he totally lived like that.”

The legacy of J. Wayne Baughman, shown conducting the Johns Creek Symphony, will be honored during the orchestra’s season finale on May 4.

Credit: Courtesy of Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra

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Credit: Courtesy of Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra

Added daughter and soprano Katie Edelman, “I had no idea that my dad was a big deal when I was little. I had no idea that he was singing at big places with really important people. Dad always had a really beautiful quality about him — he was so capable at all times but also incredibly relatable and humble, so there was never a time in our experience together in music that I felt like I needed to live up to anything.”

Both daughters recalled nights where their father would wear a tuxedo while preparing dinner in anticipation of heading off for the evening’s concert. “He made a great meatloaf,” Federici said.

Baughman was a lifelong renaissance man. His musical interests developed in tandem with a love of sports, and his career in classical music came at the cost of pursuing a career in baseball. “He was an amazing baseball player,” said Federici. “We all played baseball. He was a great baseball coach and just a really, really fun dad.”

Maestro Baughman studied choral and orchestral conducting at the University of Alabama, where he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees, followed by studies in advanced conducting at the University of Michigan. He arrived in Atlanta in 1974, where he quickly became involved with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Choruses as bass-baritone vocal soloist and frequent collaborator with ASO Director Robert Shaw. Projects with maestro Shaw included “Requiem,” “St. John Passion” and Handel’s “Messiah.”

The Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra was formed in the aftermath of the passing of Baughman’s wife, violist and violinist Lynn Marie Hosty Baughman, in 2007. Within a week of her death, he began discussing plans for what would become the JCSO with his daughters. “We talked about how to get that started because it was important to us that mom should also have a legacy,” explained Edelman.

A memorial concert in Lynn Baughman’s honor raised money for the JCSO concertmaster chair that bears her name. The seat is held by Federici.

In mid-July 2023, Baughman suffered a stroke. The stroke itself was mild, and Baughman’s family breathed an initial sigh of relief, but further medical examinations revealed concerning news: He was facing aggressive pancreatic cancer.

Baughman handled the news with his characteristic inner strength, but it was clear that his days were limited. After roughly a month of grueling treatment, he knew it was time to settle his affairs. The remaining months were spent in warm visitation with family, friends and colleagues.

"Every day when he would drop us off at school he would say, ‘Have fun, be nice, do good work.’ And he totally lived like that,” said Baughman's daughter, violinist Adelaide Federici.

Credit: Courtesy of Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra

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Credit: Courtesy of Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra

Conductor John Morrison was brought in to handle the season, a selection made by Baughman himself. Morrison found the last-minute appointment daunting, but Baughman’s support gave him the necessary assurance. ‘

“Wayne Baughman came to me and said, ‘John, we’ve got ‘Appalachian Spring’ and Beethoven’s 9th scheduled for this next season; you’re the only one that can do this,” said Morrison. “Wayne was one of those guys that had this unbelievable gift to touch people without judging them. Everybody he worked with felt so comfortable around him.”

Baughman had intended for the 2023-24 season to be his last before retiring, and, as such, had stocked it with personal favorites from the classical canon. The result has been a season packed with crowd-pleasing staples, including Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy” and the aforementioned Beethoven’s 9th.

In November 2023, J. Wayne Baughman passed peacefully, surrounded by family. Those closest to him were grateful that his last months were pleasant.

The final stage of Baughman’s vision for the JCSO and the city it serves is a proposed Legacy Center, a city-sponsored performing arts venue for the Symphony and other performances.

“Wayne, in many ways, was a dreamer,” said Johns Creek Mayor John Bradberry. “The value of that cannot be underestimated. The thing that makes some dreamers successful is that they never quit. He was still promoting the idea of us having our own performance hall. It was an inspiration to me to see just how determined and focused he was.”

Bradberry has carried Baughman’s enthusiasm forward by establishing a task force of residents with business experience to determine how to bring Baughman’s vision to life. Although careful to point out that the project is only in the exploratory stage, he is hopeful it will become a reality.

As Johns Creek and its exceptional Symphony expand, so will the impact of J. Wayne Baughman. The Orchestra’s season finale on May 4 will celebrate the legacy of maestro Baughman.


“Celebrating the Maestro”

Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra featuring violinist Adelaide Federici and soprano Katie Edelman. 7:30 p.m. May 4. Johns Creek United Methodist Church, 11180 Medlock Bridge Road, Johns Creek. $20-$50. 678-748-5802,


Jordan Owen began writing about music professionally at the age of 16 in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2006 graduate of the Berklee College of Music, he is a professional guitarist, bandleader and composer. He is currently the lead guitarist for the jazz group Other Strangers, the power metal band Axis of Empires and the melodic death/thrash metal band Century Spawn.

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Credit: ArtsATL

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Credit: ArtsATL


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