NZSO Youth Orchestra composer's new note

YOUNG BLOOD: Sam Logan's musical experience ranges from orchestral composition and entertaining diners in city restaurants
YOUNG BLOOD: Sam Logan's musical experience ranges from orchestral composition and entertaining diners in city restaurants

Sam Logan grew up in Blenheim where his mum was a music teacher. Naturally, by the time Sam was 4 or so, she had him sitting on a cushion on the piano stool making rudimentary music.

Nearly 20 years later, he is pleased she persevered, as he is named NZSO National Youth Orchestra Composer-in- Residence for 2013.

"Mum made me play the piano," he says. "Sometimes she wouldn't let me play with my friends. I was about 12 when she really started me off, but I didn't much like the piano till high school when it started to make sense, and I picked up the guitar."

Logan is finishing his master's degree in composition at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington.

Before the residency was announced, he was also selected with seven other young composers from 35 applicants for the NZSO-Todd awards for young composers to have a short work "read" by the NZSO. Hearing the NZSO - "all people brilliant in their own way" - play his work was "an incredibly humbling experience".

The residency requires him to finish a short orchestral work by the end of May to open a Youth Orchestra concert later in the year.

Logan's musical experience ranges from orchestral composition and entertaining diners in city restaurants as half of a Latin guitar duo to an appearance with Iggy Pop in a television commercial. "People always drag that one up," he says.

A career as a composer might seem the loftier no-brainer for Logan, but he is following a fluid career path. "There's no set pattern. I've already given a few other things a try."

This included, after he left Blenheim for "overseas" at Victoria University, studying law and psychology, as well as music. "I'm probably not cut out to follow law. It's a bit rigid and book bound."

He has never had aspirations as a solo performer, nor does he anticipate any sort of straight, old-fashioned line to the top of the wider music industry.

"With music paradigms changing, making records and selling them is dying out," Logan says. "You have to be more aware of putting music online with things like apps.

"It's very interesting with the book trade. A lecturer at school is making soundtracks for e-books and you have music soundtracks for iPads. I'd love to get involved in that kind of thing.

"I really want to actually spend a good amount of time producing stuff, making music, doing my own thing."

Meanwhile, he is concentrating on finishing his master's degree and on the residency. Then he plans to travel. "I'm very much over academe. I've been in school from age 5, and five years at Vic."

He will leave with the best of music credentials.

Established composer Anthony Ritchie, one of the three selectors for the residency and a mentor for the Todd awards, says Logan's successes align him with "the top 10 or so" of the country's young composers.

Ritchie says Logan had to submit several compositions and his work "showed technical skill with flair and imagination, and how it's got a bit of a spark, a little bit different to other young composers. I know he's willing to try a lot of different things, not one particular school of thought."

For Logan, as for previous winners, Ritchie says, the residency "is very significant for an emerging composer who isn't known yet and has had limited opportunities to write for an orchestra. It gives him the chance to write for the cream of New Zealand's young orchestral players." It can be a step to a career as a composer.

"For a young composer it's hard to make a living as a freelancer composer. I did it for 10 years. Gareth Farr did it. You have to be versatile, not just classical composing but theatre, film. All sorts of things."

Logan has already come to that conclusion.

The Dominion Post