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Celebration of David Baker's Music At Jacobs School Of Music
Updated May 5, 2013 1:05 AM | Filed under: WBIW News
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(BLOOMINGTON) - The Jacobs School of Music will put on a celebration befitting a living legend when it hosts the David Baker 80th Birthday Celebration at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, in the Indiana University Musical Arts Center.

Several components of Baker's illustrious career as a musician, composer, writer and educator will be showcased at the performance celebration, including classical chamber music, swing and the genre that first thrust the Indianapolis native onto the national jazz scene: bebop.

The show will feature a reunion of Baker's early 1980s 21st Century Bebop Band - a group whose members all have gone on to significant careers in the music industry. Reuniting for the evening are Pat Harbison, trumpet; Ralph Bowen and Jack Wilkins, tenor saxophone; Robert Hurst, bass; Jim Beard, piano; and Shawn Pelton, drums.
Baker's actual birthday is this week on Wednesday, and despite suffering a broken hip in early November, he was his characteristically cheerful self when asked about the upcoming concert and musical celebration.

"In all probability, I'll only see 80 one time, so I might as well see it up close and for real," he said from his Bloomington home. "I don't think I'll be competing in the Olympics any time soon," he joked. "I have learned to walk with a cane but I don't have the tap dancing part down yet."

The man named a Living Jazz Legend by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts said, "I think the prayers and good thoughts that people have passed my way have helped me tremendously. I don't think I've had a bad day any time along the way."

Although the injury and subsequent hip replacement were serious business, Baker mostly joked about his setback on Monday. His wife, Lida, acknowledged that there was a humorous component to his accident, which happened while teaching a jazz history class on Nov. 7.

"He was playing a recording for the class to hear and when he walked over to the piano, he lost his footing and fell on the concrete floor," she said. "His teaching assistant could see that he was seriously injured and went over to turn off the recording and David said, while lying on the floor, 'No! No! J.J.'s solo is coming up next!'"

J.J. Johnson also was an Indianapolis native and trombone player, and was a mentor to Baker.

Tom Walsh, Jacobs associate professor of saxophone and coordinator of the event, said in a news release: "David Baker's influence has been felt worldwide through his teaching, writing, performances and compositions. We are excited to have the opportunity to celebrate his music and achievements with alumni, students, faculty, family and friends."

Admission is free but requires tickets, available from the MAC box office beginning Tuesday, Jan. 10.

The Jacobs Department of Recording Arts, directed by Konrad Strauss, will video-stream the concert live at

Earlier in the day, at 3 p.m. in the Musical Arts Center lobby, a panel discussion will feature Baker and Monika Herzig - author of the recent book "David Baker: A Legacy in Music" (Indiana University Press, 2011) - with contributing Jacobs faculty authors David Ward-Steinman, Brent Wallarab and Lissa May, as well as alumni J.B. Dyas and John Edward Hasse.

For more information about the David Baker 80th Birthday Celebration, email or call 812-855-7560.

To share a personal message or a memory of Baker, visit the celebration's blog site at

Related events include a black-tie dinner and concert this Wednesday at The Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis featuring the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra performing Baker's original compositions to commemorate the CD "Basically Baker," re-released by Owl Studios.

Tickets are $125 and may be purchased from or by calling 317-253-4900.

Donations in Baker's honor may be made to the David N. Baker Jazz Scholarship at the Jacobs School of Music, c/o Indiana University Foundation, P.O. Box 6460, Indianapolis, IN 46206-6460. For more information, contact the Jacobs School of Music office of development at 855-7436.

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