Natchez Festival of Music Artistic Director selected

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 6, 2008

NATCHEZ — Admittedly, the new Natchez Festival of Music artistic director does not expect to fill former director David Blackburn’s shoes — nor does he want to.

But George Hogan still wants to make him proud.

Blackburn has long been a mentor to Hogan.

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When Hogan was 15, he met Blackburn at a music camp and asked him to be his teacher, and from then the mentoring continued.

“Dr. B was not just my teacher and my mentor but really had become a close friend and a second dad to me,” Hogan said.

He said while it’s an honor to follow in Blackburn’s footsteps, it is difficult to step into a position vacated by the death of Blackburn.

“It really comes as a bittersweet thing to me,” he said.

But Hogan was always intended as Blackburn’s heir apparent, Natchez Festival of Music Chairman Ron McGowan said.

This played largely into the unanimous selection of Hogan by the festival’s board.

Hogan has performed in the Natchez Festival of Music so he is familiar with the area.

Hogan’s familiarity is a reason why he is excited to have been appointed.

He said the area has always been so welcoming and such an enjoyment to visit.

“I’ll think we’ll have a good marriage together,” he said of Natchez.

For his first year in the position, he said he will not be making any dramatic changes.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel this summer,” he said. “We’re implementing a few changes.”

One of those changes is to give one of the artists a David Blackburn award.

Hogan said the qualifications would include talent, kindness, graciousness a good work ethic and a positive attitude.

For the future, Hogan does have vision for the festival.

Hogan heard from Blackburn’s wife and also McGowan about a conversation that took place before Blackburn’s death.

“He said he felt like I could take this to the next level,” Hogan said.

The Texas native said having that kind of backing gives him confidence and he hopes to make Blackburn proud of him, even though he is no longer here.

“I have always and will continue to always have the utmost respect for him and I don’t think anyone could be him or fill his shoes. I’m sure Natchez will have to adjust to me,” he said.

Hogan is currently the resident vocal artist, director of opera activities and an associate professor of voice at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas.

Hogan does not have plans to relocate to Natchez but will take all of May off for the festival.