Distinguished Professor David Baker

Distinguished Professor David Baker


As we honor the life of David Baker, you are invited to leave your thoughts and remembrances. Please scroll to the bottom of this page to place your comments.

66 thoughts on “REMEMBRANCES

  1. Kristen Cobb

    Oh my heart breaks! Mr. Baker was such an amazing professor full of so much talent! And on top of that, he was an extremely humble and kind man with a wonderful sense of humor. I remember him stopping to chat in the hallway from time-to-time. That flabbergasted me! At IU I regularly felt like just a number…and one at the bottom of the totem pole at that. For him to remember who I was seemed crazy to me, I mean, who was I, but that made me feel so special!!! He really inspired me not only as a musician, but as a person. What a great man! Enjoy the big band in the sky Mr. Baker!

    1. Andy Jaffe

      All of us who had the opportunity to be mentored by David will remember and appreciate his guidance and formidable knowledge forever. He cannot be replaced and his accomplishments and contributions were truly an inspiration. Our best wishes to Lida and everyone at IU.

  2. Chris Tackett

    A tremendous man whose example as a musician, a teacher, and a man still informs much of my life. I’m honored to have known him and studied with him. His legacy casts an incredible shadow.

  3. John and Barbe Houser

    John and I offer our sincere condolences and sympathy to the family of David Baker. He was a strong advocate for so many and we greatly appreciate his influence in our lives. Lida, we weep with you during this time. David’s legacy will continue.

  4. Dana Melick

    David had a huge influence in my life, and was the reason I attended IU. He was a of course a great musician, but also a great mentor, teacher, leader, and most importantly a great man. God Bless You David, you will always live on in us all, and your influence will always remain. My prayer go out to your family.

  5. Kathryn

    I met David Baker only once during my time at IU while attending an IU 60th reunion with my grandma for the class of 1953. We were seated together at one of the receptions, and I remember speaking to him and his wife for a bit. When I was leaving, he leaned over to tell me that I exude confidence and will go far in my future. It was a compliment that meant a lot because I could tell he believed what he said. His words were an encouragement to me and a glimpse into his character. Since he could impact me in a short conversation, I can only imagine how much he influenced his many students.

  6. Yuri Rodriguez

    What a joy it was to see him walking through our School buildings. And what an honor to have you as a teacher and as an audience. I will always remember sitting in his improvisation class, (which was always packed!), and after I was done with my four bar impro, he looked back at me and said… you know Yuri, silence is music, too! And everybody laughed so hard… even I did! how true Prof. Baker! Thanks for all the great lessons we learned from you in class, but most importantly, thank you for everything you taught us outside of the classroom. Your kind sound, your genuine heart, your true commitment to your students, your beautiful heart. We are left with the joy of your music. Thank you Prof. Baker! ’till we meet again.

  7. Cornelius Boots

    During my Masters degree studies with him, he consistently encouraged me to express my true self, to dig deeper into the inner composer and performer. I am grateful for my 3 years in his band, and to have seen him in constant action the 7 years I was in Bloomington.

    He is a legend and inspiration, a Jazz Giant with no limits, and one of the most creatively fertile minds to have graced planet Earth.

  8. Nancy Brown

    His dedication to education and young players was unsurpassed. His compositions are some of the most challenging pieces. But his stories were the best. In Jazz History class he would talk about “one night at ‘Trane’s house we were having dinner…” or any number of other off the cuff remarks that would floor us.
    He taught me many, many things.

  9. Charlotte Bash

    RIP David Baker. Your Contemporary Jazz and Soul class was one of my favorite classes in college. I learned so much about incredible musicians that I never would’ve known about if it wasn’t for your class. I remember you had about 100+ students, but you always took the time to let me know when you liked my accessories (“Nice bag,” “killer boots!” :-p) Cheers to your musical prowess and great taste! I am so privileged to have known you X

  10. Allan J. Cronin

    I know only a little of Professor Baker’s classical compositions like his Cello Concerto. I think he is among the most successful in integrating jazz with classical forms and doing justice to both. I am saddened to hear of his passing but I hope this will be taken as an opportunity to make his work more widely known. Blessings to family and friends. The world of music has lost a great artist. May his music always be heard.

  11. Elizabeth Matney

    I graduated from Bloomington North, was in band with his nephew David and in orchestra with his daughter April. When our band director was fired unjustly, David brought music and graduate students to help our jazz band. John Clayton even took us to the Notre Dame jazz fest. David’s kindness has aways been remembered. After his car wreck, the transition from trombone to cello widened our view of jazz. Thank you David and peace be with his family. We’ve lost a treasure.

  12. Denise Valkyrie

    I always enjoyed working with “Doc”. While we remember what a great talent he was, he was also a wonderful person and treated everyone he worked with with great respect. I’ve had the pleasure of working with members of his family as well and the apples did not fall far from the tree. I hope you all find comfort during your time of mourning. I am so sad that I won’t be seeing his warm smile anymore, but the inspiration that he has been lives on.

  13. Peter Heck

    I met Dave when I was a grad student in English and my wife was a music major at IU in the late ’60s. I sat in on one of his improvisation classes she was taking, and learned an enormous amount about music theory from him… and we became friends. We got to sing in the Baptist church choir with him, hung out, traveled together a few times, and listened to/talked about music and a trillion other topics. Not only was he a great teacher, he had a huge store of (often hilarious) stories about the jazz life and his experiences as part of the George Russell group and his contacts with some of the legends of the music. I hadn’t seen him in years, but he did take the time to write to my son Dan, a young guitarist and composer, complimenting him on a CD of Dan’s original music. A great teacher and a wonderful friend — sad to know he’s left us. He leaves a long shadow.

  14. Marianne Ackerson

    Dear Lida,
    David’s love reaches around the world, and your love reaches with him. You helped organize and literally write his life through the books, the music, the millions of notes that you wrote, painstakingly beautifully. You were the “sunshine of his life” and I (and innumerable devoted friends) have been deeply enriched to know you both. When I sent the Cyrille Aimee, Diego Figueiredo recording of “Just The Two of Us,” I saw you and David in my mind’s eye.

    “Yes, we’ll gather at the river. The beautiful, the beautiful river. Gather with the saints at the river, that flows by the throne of God.”

    All my love to you and the entire family,

  15. Rita Kohn

    For David’s family, heartfelt love for the loss and caring thoughts for your well-being as you absorb David’s passing. For myself, it is deepest gratitude for knowing David, being the recipient of his gifts to his students who over all these many years have– like David Baker-teacher, mentor, gifted maker of music–enriched my life through their playing and composing. David’s life was a megaphone–his one voice of integrity spreading into the universe for all to be touched by dignity, grace, compassion, humor and above all beauty of spirit and heart. It’s hard not to be in the moment of David Baker if you in any way connect with Jazz–just about everyone in some way transmits a bit of his glow into a fourth generation going onto a fifth. So long for now dear friend. You have made my life happy. Dear Lida–how I cherish sitting with you at the most recent APA Jazz Fellowship–feeling David’s joy as he listened and watched was transformative. hugs for the days to come, Rita

  16. Keith A. Welch

    It was my pleasure to meet Professor Baker during my time at the IU School of Music in the early 90’s. The memory I have of his kindness will remain with me always. Our loss is very great; I don’t know when we will meet his like again.

  17. Mark Hood

    So many owe him so much, but David gave freely: without any thought of obligation or repayment. He gave us fully 100% of his energy, his wisdom, his scholarship, his talent, his love of teaching and music, and his belief that we can all aim higher and achieve even more than we sometimes imagine.

    Like thousands of others around the world, I feel very blessed to have experienced David’s touch in my life. Thank you, Professor and friend.

  18. Micheline Fleurant

    Two years ago I had the honor of chauffeuring Professor Baker to and from teaching his classes at IU for a couple weeks. At that time his wife was recuperating from surgery and he needed someone to drive him to work. As a neighbor to the Baker’s, I was happy to be of help.
    These two weeks “on the job” ended up to be a most enjoyable experience. I will forever cherish the time I spent in his company.

  19. David Coleman

    David Baker was a spectacular musician, a wonderful teacher, and a truly inspiring human being. I was privileged to commission and premiere several of David’s compositions. These performances and the opportunity to work with David were life-altering experiences.

    David was one of a very few individuals that can be credited with inventing Jazz education. The fact that Jazz is taught at colleges, universities and other educational institutions is due in large part to the work and vision of this great man. He took Jazz from the bar room to the classroom, and helped us all to recognize the brilliance of this truly American Art form.

    When necessary, Dave could be tough. He pushed me hard, writing music for me at the edge of my ability. He never let up, but he always helped, guided and supported the best efforts of those around him.

    I will miss you every day, Dave.

  20. Dr. Trineice Robinson-Martin

    You know…I never could call him David…it was either “Baker,” “Daddy Baker,” or “Daddy B.” I just never felt comfortable calling him David. When I moved to IN from CA, it was my first time away from a very close knit family, and it was he and Ms Lida that watched over me, took care of me, and treated me like I was their own child from the time he invited me to IU to audition to this present day…its how they inherited the name from me “Mommas and Daddy Baker.” I truly love and adore this man and I miss him so much. I thank God that he was apart of my life. He was such an amazing, regal, humble, talented, loving, passionate person, and has been, and will continue to be a major inspiration in my life. RIP Daddy B! Love you always.

  21. Ken Ebo

    David was the Giant.

    I remember my teacher – nowadays, though, I more accurately recall him as my mentor. That’s what he became to virtually all of his students because a teacher imparts knowledge, but a mentor INSPIRES. And I have never met a person who was around David N. Baker who failed to be inspired. As a young out of state freshman at Indiana University I had never heard of David Baker even though by then he was already a towering figure in jazz education. It only took a moment though to figure out in our first meeting that I was way behind the times. I knew immediately this was a great man whom I desired to learn from – and I didn’t need to see his spiral bound resume on his desk to prove it!

    David exuded knowledge, passion, and fervor about all things musical. His exuberance drew you in and made you want to know more, hear more, play more. He had a way of challenging you farther even when you thought you had pushed yourself and really accomplished something.

    I remember once early on practicing so hard on a particular tune and eagerly anticipating playing it for David. I knew I had nailed it and totally expected praise and adulation from this jazz icon. He listened and simply asked, “You think you know this tune? It’s like me – you think you know me, but you don’t know me. You have no idea what my favorite color is, what I like to eat for dinner, what my family is like…,” and on and on he went illustrating the fact that I knew that tune in one key and basically one tempo. Ok…sigh…back to the practice room.

    This scene in some form played itself out in virtually every class and every lesson. You always left David with a feeling of gained ground hand in hand with another hill to conquer. Yet it was never a demeaning feeling…as long as you had put in the effort. If you had not tried then you could receive what some might consider a scathing rebuke. David hated laziness and apathy and modeled the exact opposite for all of us to emulate.

    This is not to say that David never handed out compliments. One of the sweetest fruits was working or playing your tail off and getting a smile, knowing head nod, or other accolade from David. All of his musical children wanted to please him.

    David was a compendium of musical knowledge, and not just jazz, but classical, gospel, 20th century, etc. Regardless, jazz was the focus and he taught me to love bebop. After hearing him tell of the wonders of Bird, Diz, Monk, et al – the common practice period of jazz – I couldn’t get enough. Every waking moment I was listening – and some sleeping moments as well! Yes, I did nod off once or twice in a couple of those long evening classes on the intricacies of bebop – but it was never because I was bored. Being around David had a way of stretching you so thin, but somehow it never affected him. He had a boundless energy.

    I recall one morning around zero-dark-thirty I was driving to school to get an early start on practicing, so proud to be the early bird – and there was David – speed walking through the neighborhood in his Lakers jumpsuit – probably had been up for hours and written three tunes before he left home…even when he wasn’t trying he was kicking me in the pants!

    Being around David just made you better. He had monstrous ears. He could hear things in places I didn’t even know there were places. Rehearsals were like blowing a dog whistle – I’m standing around aloof in the band, but David was like the German Shepherd out front going crazy because of all the noise he was hearing. He could pick out all the things that needed to be fixed and he knew how to fix them.

    He taught me how to listen. I remember when he dropped the needle on some obscure bop recording and asked, “Who is the drummer?” How in the world could you tell who the drummer was? I mean, a horn player has a distinctive sound, but drums are different, right? Wrong, kid. There were layers to listening and I had only scratched the surface. By the time that semester was through he dropped the needle and sure enough I knew who the drummers were. It wasn’t long and I was able to hear things that made me appreciate the art so much more deeply. David taught us how to learn like the masters did – by listening and playing along. When I heard the news of David’s passing, I was finishing a big band transcription – writing out all of the parts from a recording by listening to it. David taught me that.

    Once during a lesson at his house we were sitting facing a wall filled with part of his enormous collection of recordings – the entire wall was comprised floor to ceiling with shelves of thousands of LPs. I remember wondering if he had listened to them all. I feel certain he had.

    The stories and his other students are legion. I’m just a sliver of the inspirational and educational output of David N. Baker. There are many other students who I’m sure have achieved more notoriety or even were better about keeping in touch. Like many of us life has taken me for a ride – family, kids, career, my father’s battle with cancer, a Marine combat tour in Iraq, etc. Through it all, however, David’s influence has permeated my playing and teaching and will continue to do so. I saw David several times throughout the years and he was always kind and warm with his recollections. He will always loom large in the landscape of my musical life. He was a monolith. David was the giant.

    Ken Ebo
    Naval School of Music
    Musical Director, USMC All-Star Big Band

  22. Melissa (Korzec) Dickson

    It was as a freshman in the fall of 1997 that I first met David Baker. I was running to theory class in Merrill Hall. I jumped up the stairs of the west entrance of the building just as David Baker was coming out the door. He stood back and held the door for me, giggled and said “And how are YOU, today?” I knew exactly who he was and I was dumbstruck that he took a moment to ask how I was – and it was so clear by the tone of his voice that he really wanted to know! My tongue tied itself in a knot and all I did was turn red and giggle… and then I tripped up the next step while I starred at him.

    After theory class in Merrill, I was on my way to Ballentine for a literature class. I head out the west door of Merrill on that rainy morning, and who was there holding the door? Yep. David Baker and I crossed paths again! He held the door for me and said with a smile, “Fancy meeting you here! So sorry about this rain – be careful – it’s all over the steps!” I giggled, turned red (so typical), and said, “‘Sorry about the rain on the steps,’ sounds like the title of a good jazz tune!” He laughed at me and said, “You’re right! Well I know what I’ll be working on this morning.” I think my heart nearly burst – I was so excited.

    I called my Mom later that day and squealed to her that I met and spoke with THE DAVID BAKER! I told her how amazing the interaction made me feel, and how cool he was. That is what I will remember most about David – how cool he was, and how when he spoke to you he made you feel like you were the only person in the room. He made you keenly aware of how much he cared about YOU. Such an awesome quality in a human being. We will miss you and your beautiful humanity, David!

    “How lucky I am to have someone that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan, Annie

  23. John Winninger

    I first met David in the WTIU TV studios in the late 1960’s as a cameraman where he was the center of several jazz productions with Jack Sheehan and later WTIU videotaped “Battle of the Bands” on the IU Musical Arts Center stage. As a cellist myself I got to know him over the years at IU, and he asked me to “coach” him, after a recital he attended a few years ago, on his cello bowing arm technique. Here we shared our love of the ‘cello, musical phrases, and finding “jazz” in many forms of music. David was easy to talk to, expressive, positive, and always said hello and asked me what was new in my life. He took time to share a moment with those he knew. What an upbeat positive person. David, I valued your friendship. You will be missed.

  24. Ryan Tarjanyi

    I had the honor of serving as one of David’s teaching assistants in 2003 and 2004. At the time, David was in his 70’s. I will never forget how fast we would walk to classes and rehearsals. I am an avid runner, and he still wore me out! His vitality, intellect, and musical skills will be missed by all. I will always remember and be thankful for how he helped me grow both musically and intellectually. To Lida, and his family, all I can say is thank you for sharing him with all of us! We have lost a great one.

  25. Tony Jarana

    David Baker is, and will remain, the most wonderful example of an individual rising above his circumstances to ever touch my life. He taught thousands from his soul; his actual life experiences, and it transformed them and allowed them to reach beyond what most had ever imagined for themselves, musically and as humans.

    IU will never replace this giant and I pray others will follow who hope to emulate what he lovingly provided to all of us.

  26. David J. Fulton

    On behalf of the Starr-Gennett Foundation, Richmond, Indiana, I want to express the sadness with which this news was received by our members and give our condolences to Lida and David’s family. The Starr-Gennett Foundation is dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of the Starr Piano Company in Richmond and its subsidiary, Gennett Records, which recorded the best of the first jazz musicians in America. David was a member of our National Advisory Board that was formed to assist us in our mission. His positive attitude and great knowledge were instrumental in helping us create the Gennett Records Walk of Fame which honors the great jazz musicians who made their first recordings here. David also visited Richmond not only to perform but to speak about the history of jazz. His influence was felt around the world, but we will celebrate his efforts in support of our small Indiana town with its huge impact on American music.

  27. Kathy Kozacik Parker

    Let us celebrate the life of The Great David Baker, who God gave us so we could swing! While our hearts are all breaking with his passing, we know who the ‘Heavenly Jazz Band’ Director is. You will be dearly missed but never, ever forgotten.

  28. DeVonne Gardner

    Dear Lida and Family; I will never forget the year 1999 when I was invited to sing at the National Cathedral with David and the Smithsonian Jazz Masters Orchestra to celebrate Duke Ellington’s 100th birthday by performing his Sacred Concert! I was honored and excited to work with such an esteemed group of musicians! And a bit nervous!! But I want you, Lida, to know that you and your husband took all the fear away by your kind and encouraging words and spirit! That concert remains as one of the highlights of my musical career! Thanks to you and David! May God shower you and yours with His love, ALWAYS! May David RIP and swing with the other greats who went before.

  29. Allen

    Somewhere in the seventies (40+ years ago), I called David out of the blue to ask some questions about music. He was very friendly and at the end of our conversation he offered to send me one of his books (free of charge) since I, as he put it, was “so interested.” I still remember that act of kindness after all these years! God Bless Dave — a truly great man!

  30. Jim and Tomi Allison

    In addition to Dave Baker the musician and teacher, Bloomingtonians should honor Dave Baker the community activist. We met him soon after our arrival in 1963, and a few years later enlisted his help in encouraging our west side residents to play a bigger role in the political life of the city. Along with several other musicians in the I.U. School of Music, Dave helped to bring a popular series of musical performances to west side parks whose accessibility assured good attendance by west side residents and provided an effective catalyst for their subsequent political activity. Those who knew him well could cite many such examples. The city of Bloomington owes him a lot, and we will miss him.

    Jim and Tomi Allison

  31. Prof. Carlos Montané

    When I met David in my first semester as a Voice Faculty at IU School of Music -1986-, I introduced myself, from that moment on, every time we met in the halls, parking lot or at the mail room at the music school, we had small talk as each of us were on our way to our classes. David was always very kind, with his friendly smile and firm hand shake. A brilliant artist and a greater man. A big lost to our Music School, Indiana University and the music world. R.I.P. old friend.

  32. A. B. Spellman

    Damn! This is the first that I’ve learned of his death. David was one of the best people I’ve ever known. Every time I ran into him my day lifted, my mood got better & I was ready for a great conversation. He was a very easy man to be friends with.

    Lida, you were his base. Stay strong.

    A. B. Spellman

  33. Jim Snidero

    David was one of the most inspired, and inspiring, persons I’ve ever known. He was incredibly smart and articulate, always gracious and encouraging. I loved his spirit and feel honored to have known him.

  34. Alan Pasqua

    David has imprinted on us all. A true pioneer of modern Jazz, a true gentleman, one of the greatest music educators ever and a real friend to us all. He is a gentle giant. I will miss him, will always be grateful for his unselfish mentorship, leadership and friendship, and I will continue to share and pass on his legacy. Thank you David for all that you have done for us all. David and Lida, you are truly loved and it will always be so.

  35. Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw, III

    David Nathaniel Baker (December 21, 1931 – March 26, 2016) Cellist, trombonist, composer, arranger, educator, pedagog, Chairman of Jazz Studies at Indiana University. RIP to a truly great man who helped countless musicians and inspired perhaps every student who ever crossed his path.

    David became a true father figure to many of his students, assistants, and pupils, and that includes myself. I had the blessed fortune of studying and spending each and every day under his oversight in 2006-2007 at Indiana University as one of his TA’s and as a drummer in his big band. I graded hundreds of papers for his courses, listened to hundreds of hours of music, and taught his jazz history class on more than one occasion. As you can tell, I am quite proud of having had this experience as I’m sure his many other graduate and doctoral students also are.

    David was a most graceful and loving authority and was a genius of a pedagog, knowing what it took for human beings to grasp things of deep cultural importance and how to teach the value of self-respect earned through hard work. He was the embodiment of excellence and he always held his musical predecessors in the highest regard, making sure that we knew that as students of this music, we owed an enormous debt to those who created the art form both for their elite craftsmanship and for what they had to go through to be who they were. That debt of gratitude David lived with as if he were paying it off day by day through his dedication to helping others through music, extending the inspiration that he had gained from his major influences on to everyone who would take his teachings seriously.

    In fact, David is one of the main people who consistently encouraged me to continue to pursue the preservation of my father’s legacy in whatever growing capacity I could as I moved further into adulthood; he insisted that Woody Shaw held an equal level of historical and musical importance as any and all of the major pioneers of jazz, such as Bird, Dizzy, Miles, Monk, Trane and so on, and that his innovations were on par with the greatest innovations the trumpet had ever seen throughout its entire history, and that they must be acknowledged and documented, that justice would not be served until Woody Shaw was at least included into the same conversation as the very greats that he, David, grew up admiring. He instilled into me a tenacity and seriousness about protecting this music from the point of view of someone born into it, and gave me a deeper incentive to respect the tradition of struggle that has persisted across successive generations of African American musical development. This was a very special man for thousands of people who put himself on the line working in an often unforgiving and cruel environment for men of his particular generation and disposition.

    A true patron and master of not only jazz but of European concert music, with a vast repertoire across a multitude of styles. He remains perhaps one of, if not THE only composer to ever compose a classical piece for cell phone, “Concertino for Cell Phones and Orchestra” (Google it), having done this in about a month’s time. And yet, he accepted the many injustices that accompany the lives of so many African American master artists, of having your accomplishments either undermined or entirely overlooked, with complete dignity and without the slightest trace of anger, resentment, or discouragement. This was particularly phenomenal and inspiring to see in a world, and a profession, where so many seem to be whining about how things should be and how much they deserve while often having done less than a micro-fraction of what this man could accomplish in a year’s time, only to move on to the next project without ever looking back.

    While I will miss him deeply and dearly, I can say with total conviction that he will live on through those who he touched and inspired and impacted spiritually through his generosity. Like most of his students probably will, I feel that I have been one of David’s most fortunate beneficiaries,
    to have received the benefit of his rare artistic and humanistic gifts and of the unconditional love and support of he and his amazing wife and partner, Lida Baker. David brought into my life a degree of caring, support, guidance that simply hadn’t existed prior, and which will probably never exist again, and he saw to it that whatever he had grasped of my father’s legacy that was of any major importance, he would extend unto me in knowledge and in spirit, with a sense of total duty towards the ongoing preservation of tradition. He will always be part of who I am as a man and as a proponent of this great music.

    RIP to a mentor, a father, and a dear friend to countless musicians over the decades.

    —Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw, III

  36. John Edward Hasse

    I’m heartbroken to have lost David Baker–whom I knew for 43 years as, first, my teacher, then neighbor, friend, mentor, colleague, and collaborator. Truly a giant of music and of education and a key inspiration in the lives of many, including myself. The world is a better place for life and work of David–a musical Renaissance Man.

    I went to Indiana University as graduate student primarily to study with David, and took just about every course I could from him. Once I arrived at the Smithsonian, he graciously lent his talent and support to a number of my brainchildren, including agreeing to serve as the Musical Director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. He was unflinchingly supportive of my efforts to establish Jazz Appreciation Month, a key architect of “Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology,” and a contributor to several of my books.

    It was thrilling to observe him–for more than 20 years–rehearsing, motivating, and conducting our Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. The affection and respect everyone in the band had for David was palpable.

    In addition to his many musical contributions as composer, author, educator, conductor, scholar, trombonist, cellist, and advocate, he taught us life and leadership lessons:

    • Keep music central to your life;
    • Never stop practicing;
    • Listen closely not only to the music, but to the people around you;
    • Focus on the big picture;
    • Be inclusive and generous of spirit;
    • Proclaim your passion;
    • Devotedly pass your knowledge on to the next generations;
    • Readily offer encouragement;
    • Maintain a sense of humor under all circumstances;
    • Never stop being creative, never retire; and
    • Give thanks for each and every day.

    He was one of the few men I knew who could say unabashedly to another man (in this case, me), “I love you, man.” I learned from him in that way, too.
    For these admirable examples and the many other ways that David inspired me, I will be eternally grateful.

  37. Al Edyvean Jr.

    I met David in the 1960’s when he worked with my dad on a project at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and then premiered a composition of his in that auditorium. As an I.U. grad I was aware of him when he began the Jazz Program at the Jacobs School of Music. And in the years following that I often attended his student band performances which were always wonderful and showcased some remarkable young musicians. David epitomized the talent, innovation, leadership, character and warmth that is a servant leader. It’s what made him a great teacher, administrator, mentor and friend to all who knew him. We’ll miss you David.

  38. Karen Shaw

    I wish to extend my deepest condolences to his wife and family.
    Dave was truly a genuine professional in every way. He and I go back to my student days, and he was
    a wonderful friend and colleague through all the years.
    He will be sorely missed by the music profession, and all who knew him.

  39. Don Stewart

    My memories of David go back to ’53. He was an important figure to me then: I being white, he being black and the first black person I got to know.
    But the important thing was: that racial divide, so powerful and damaging even today, didn’t exist with David. We played jazz (all sorts of music) together over the next ca. 10 years. I played in his quite famous big band of 57-60, and we continued to New York, I organized and submitted the petition to the School of Music that allowed Jazz to be played in Practice and Rehearsal rooms; this led to the founding of the Jazz program in ca. 66, with David at the helm. So much more to say…
    He was not a perfect man, but who is? He overcame huge difficulties , and was a great man.

  40. Janet Jarriel

    David Baker was a generous and gentle soul and a talent giant. As so many others have said and remembered, he touched lives in remarkable ways. You could always count on him to the be encourager in the room. His heart was as wide as the world and his positive energy ignited every conversation, every encounter, every situation. What beauty he added to our world on Earth. What joy he must be creating and enjoying in heaven. Rest in peace, David Baker. I send light and love and comfort to the just-as-remarkable Lida, his loving wife, and all of Dr. Baker’s family.

  41. Anne Haines

    While I was not fortunate enough to know or work directly with Professor Baker, I vividly recall – when I was a staff member in an administrative office on campus – receiving a phone call one day from him, trying to sort out some bit of paperwork or bureaucracy or other for one of his students. Very few faculty members at his level would have made that call themselves; they would have handed it off to an assistant or a secretary, and nobody would have thought badly of them for doing so. But Professor Baker cared SO deeply about his students – and he clearly didn’t think he was above making phone calls to lowly staff members!

    Had he merely been a brilliant composer, a brilliant musician, a brilliant educator, or an active and devoted member of his community – his loss would have been great enough. But he was all of those things. Bloomington, IU, and the jazz world were so lucky to have him. I don’t think we’ll ever see another like him.

  42. Tim Noble

    David Baker was my idol and hero. He simply was the best that human kind has to offer, and the finest teacher that I have ever known in my 50+ years in the music business. It was a privilege to have him as a friend and colleague and we will all miss him.

    Tim Noble

  43. Andy Jaffe

    All of us who had the opportunity to be mentored by David Baker will remember his energy, passion, and formidable knowledge, and how genuinely inspired and inspiring he was. His contribution cannot be duplicated. We were so lucky to have known him. We wish the best in this difficult time to Lida and the IU community.
    Andy Jaffe & family

  44. Anthony Roberts

    On behalf of the Ravinia Festival, I published my tribute to David on the Ravinia blog ( and repost it here:
    All of us at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute are still in shock about the sudden death of David Baker last Saturday. I’ve known him since I became Director of RSMI in 2010, when he was a legendary figure both at Ravinia and internationally and I was just learning the ropes in a big new job with myriad new responsibilities. David had been Program Director of the RSMI Program for Jazz since its inception in 2000, so naturally he had a certain way he expected things to be done. So much of that summer is a blur in my memory because I was in a constant whirlwind through all three of our programs, grasping into the spinning vortex for any bit of knowledge I could try to retain as I learned on the fly. And of course things didn’t run exactly as David would have wanted them or how he was accustomed to them. Of course I dropped a few balls here and there. So when he showed up in my office doorway and asked to come in and sit down, I expected—and possibly deserved—a frustrated scolding. And despite the foggy blur of that summer in my memory, I recall that conversation vividly. “I don’t know how you did it,” he said. “You made things so unbelievably smooth. You stepped right in and didn’t miss a beat. It’s been a real pleasure.” That moment of encouragement was exactly what I needed, and he must have known it. I carried his positive energy with me through the rest of the summer and still think of it frequently. I’ve thought of it constantly for the past few days. That innate understanding of and caring for people, coupled with his spectacular creativity and musicality, made him one of the greatest musicians and pedagogues the jazz world has ever produced—or will ever produce. He was a friend and mentor to countless people, and I’m privileged to count myself among them. This sad time makes me all the more eager for June 10, the day that the fellows in the class of 2016 arrive for the RSMI Program for Jazz. When we can finally get started with the program again, the pain of David’s loss will certainly come back afresh, but at the same time we’ll be surrounded by the music he loved, the music to which he dedicated his life. And the energetic young musicians filling Bennett Gordon Hall with that music—the first class of jazz fellows at RSMI to go through the program without his leadership—will be carrying David Baker’s banner forward with every note they blow. When Indiana University Press published David’s biography, David Baker: a Legacy in Music, in 2011, David brought me a copy and inscribed it “To Anthony, with respect, admiration, and affection.” Right back at ya, David.

  45. Scott Reeves

    I did my undergraduate (’68-’72) and graduate (’81-’82) degrees under David’s mentorship at Indiana University (he never allowed his students to call him Mr. Baker or Professor Baker). David taught me much of what I know about jazz, including scalar/harmonic relationships, how to practice jazz, the breadth of jazz history, and arranging/orchestration. As a trombonist he taught me the doodle-tonguing technique and his classic solo with George Russell’s sextet on “Moment’s Notice” continues to inspire me. David was also my role model on how to be an effective teacher and gave me advice on the organization of my books on jazz improvisation. He gave freely of his time and expertise and taught countless numbers of students – long past the age when most of us would have retired. David was the ‘hippest’ of all college professors and I will always be in his debt. His legacy will live on.

  46. Rick A. Hansen

    I will always hear the words “David Baker jazz lick” in my head anytime someone plays C B Bb D A G!

  47. Frank Smith

    David Baker was a master in all of his fields of endeavor. Whatever he did he excelled and he knew how to communicate that to others in a way that was more like osmosis. Add kindness,authenticity,intelligence,an intense work ethic,creativity,and BIg Humour and you’re getting close.
    As our families were close,I remember’Uncle Dave’ as being pretty much the same back then as he was now. He was the kind of adult that you’d want to go toward. On Burdsall Parkway, he’d play some records for my father and explain what was happening in the music. My father was an accountant so I’m pretty sure it was Greek to him, but that’s how passionate David was about the music.
    Later on I was fortunate to take private lessons from David. A few times it was at the end of the day when my mom got off work and could drive me down to Bloomington from Indy.He would be so tired he’d be nodding off during the lesson,but he was always very encouraging and I’m sure that what I learned during those lessons was way more than I knew at the time.I kinda dreaded them in a way because most of the lesson consisted in soloing over the changes to Giant Steps,a prospect that still fills most mucisians with dread! At 15 I was terrified but he was gentle and I learned about II-Vs in a ‘total immersion’ kind of way.Still working on Giant Steps though:)
    My heartfelt sympathy goes to you Lida,and to you April, and your daughter and all of David’s family. I regret not being able to be at the visitation as I’m out of town.
    We were all blessed to have had him in our lives. His name and legacy will live on and on.

    Frank Smith

  48. Heidi Pollyea

    Ill never forget David’s life changing reply to this shaky freshman’s inquiry: “Mr. Baker-I don’t know much about jazz -and I’m not a seriously trained musician like so many here at I.U.-but is it still possible and if so-what would it take for me to become a jazz major?”
    His benevolent and not entirely modest answer changed my life in one sentence “Young lady, if you know your major scales-I can teach you everything else you need to know.”
    Thank you David, your wisdom, guidence and support throughout the years gave me just that and more.

  49. Stanley Warren

    I remember Dave from the times our walks down Columbia Avenue in Indianapolis to elementary school 56 intersected with other neighborhood children. Unfortunately, most of us hung out in Douglass Park after school dreaming of becoming football or basketball legends, but Dave was, undoubtedly, engaged in something more serious. Our paths crossed many times as we grew into adulthood while chasing education degrees and establishing ourselves. In 1968, Dave used one of my poems in his “Jazz Ensemble I: To The Memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.” After this, on several occasions, we laughed and reminisced about two little guys from backgrounds where expectations for children were often limited. David showed us all that anyone can reach for greatness regardless of background.

  50. Dave Slonaker

    I will echo much of what has been and will be written about David, who I had the great privilege of studying with and playing in the Jazz Ensemble under his direction in my time at Indiana University from1969-74.
    In 1968, I had been looking for a school that had trombone performance but also jazz instruction. I also wanted to write…books, ie., a typical liberal arts education. There weren’t many schools at that time where this would work. Certainly few schools that had any type of jazz instruction. But I had heard and read about David and thought I would apply to IU. Fate smiled on me. I got in. I had a little interest in writing music, too, but didn’t know how to do that. I had my first arranging lesson in David’s class. Most professors would not take that much interest in me. I was musically behind my peers and probably lucky just to get into a music school. But I took it very seriously. And maybe that’s what he saw. He took an interest in me that was inspiring. And of course, as we see on this blog, that’s the way he was with everyone. During that time I believe he was growing as a composer and the excitement from his activities and his arranging class was contagious and inspiring and, for me, grew into my career as an arranger and composer. Something was happening at IU in the early seventies in jazz studies and it was exciting to be part of it. And it has also been inspiring to see how the jazz program has grown and all the lives and careers David has impacted through the years. It was an honor to be a small part of that.
    Among everything else, he taught me a profound lesson about the power of a teacher. Yes, you can have knowledge and credentials, significant professional accomplishment, charisma, a great sense of humor, and boundless enthusiasm for your subject. David, of course, had all that. But without the interest and love for each individual student, no matter of what talent and level of ability, I really don’t think you can be considered a master teacher. “From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.” – Aeschylus. What seeds David has planted!

  51. Norlan Bewley

    The world always seems rather empty when losing someone like David Baker, as when Harvey Phillips passed away.

    People who are such a presence and so influential in your life and career that simply knowing they are there is reassuring, even if you haven’t seen them for a while. They remain bigger than life, no matter how much time you spend with them or how close they become to you.

    I was very fortunate in that department – in the support, encouragement, love, and just plain belief in me that started in college and only increased over time, regardless of what musical directions I pursued. Of course people of such greatness touch and inspire many, many others…whether they ever actually meet them or not.

    They don’t call them giants for nothing…

    Goodbye, David! Thanks so much for everything.
    Please give my best to Harvey…


  52. Gerri Henneinke Habitz

    Dear Lida and family: This is to send you my deepest sympathy at your loss. I was not one of Dave’s students, but I was a fellow music school student in the 50’s. Such glowing comments have been made about Dave here and so much heartfelt gratitude for his place in so many lives. He was a great friend to all. I know because I needed help with music theory, as it was commonly called that in my day, and Dave, selflessly, guided my pen through some difficult assignments. I know of the loss his family feels and I know that a light has gone out of my life, as I considered him a great friend throughout all these years.

  53. Eric Strohecker

    Dear Lida, April, and all of David’s extended family and colleagues,

    My heart aches knowing that David’s smile, musical genius, and words of loving encouragement will no longer grace us each and every day of our collective lives. I feel fortunate to have lived at the same time, to experience part of his journey as he helped us to evolve to a higher form of existence through his music and teaching. That part of him will live on through those he taught and worked with for generations to come as we listen to music performances of his students who are now professionals influencing succeeding generations.

    In addition to the lives he touched directly, there are the untold stories of those who have been influenced by his wealth of instructional materials and music, helping to explain and teach the foundations of jazz and opening the doors to new ideas of what jazz can be. That is all a part of our human history that will stay with us in perpetuity. A wonderful life and continuing life every time one of his books is read or music pieces is performed. I’ll get to remember you regularly with great joy!

    Hope to see you in “Walts Barbershop” someday.

    Much Respect, Love and Admiration,


  54. D.D. Jackson

    David was critical in helping me change directions from my studies as a classical piano major at I.U. in the late 80’s to the jazz musician and recording artist I would eventually become, and for this I will always be eternally grateful. By my junior and senior years at I.U. I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with my classical studies. After already being accepted into the Manhattan School of Music’s Master’s degree program as classical pianist, I therefore decided almost on a whim to re-apply also as a potential jazz major (with very limited actual background, other than having sat in on Prof. Baker’s classes, and having performed around campus). To apply, I also needed a letter of recommendation, and since by then David was aware of my interest in jazz and had heard me play, I sought him out at his office. I’ll always remember that he immediately sat down and hand-wrote a letter for me, stating that I was “part of a new breed equally adept at both classical and jazz” (certainly a very positive “spin” given my lack of experience!), and I’ve always felt that it was this letter that played a significant role in my getting accepted to MSM, and therefore in helping launch my eventual career. Thank you, David – I will be eternally grateful for your support and for your belief in me, especially in that moment! And my condolences to Prof. Baker’s family, and to the entire I.U. family for the loss of this great man.
    – D.D. JACKSON

  55. Bettina Baldner

    Dear Lida
    Every time I passed your house, I had to think of you and David. I knew what you were going through. I will miss seeing him walking in our neighborhood. He was larger than life. My condolences to you.
    Bettina Baldner

  56. Candace Fairer

    I knew noting about music, but taking Mr. Baker’s class showed be a deep history among African Americans and forming different genres. He was a great teacher and had lots of patience when having a whole class of students like myself. Sorry to hear of our loss of such an awesome man.

  57. Richard Domek

    As a music ed and later music theory major at IU in the 60s-70s, I took only two classes, (Jazz Improvisation and Jazz Arranging, neither one a part of the “required” curriculum) from David. Each of these opened my eyes, ears, brain, sense of humor, and sense of being human tremendously. In fact every encounter I had with David in and outside of class had exactly the same effect.

    My wife Barbara and I were fortunate to get to know David, and later Lida, well while at IU. We were fortunate to keep in touch with him over the years, including his several visits to the University of Kentucky and my work for him and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks project.

    David was an inspiration in every way–so knowledgeable, erudite without ever being pedantic, encouraging, helpful, and such a major example of musicianship, professorship, citizenship, and friendship. David’s teaching and friendship were a major asset to me professionally and personally, and there is nothing I could ever do to repay him satisfactorily for the value of his beneficial influence on me.

    Thank you, David, for a life well-lived and an example well-given.
    –Dick Domek, Professor Emeritus—Music Theory, University of Kentucky

  58. Gary McCourry

    David Baker has had a major and lasting impact on the lives of so many, including my own. I consider it an honor to have known him. Attending Jamey Aebersold Jazz Camp as a member of a combo with David as instructor gave me the opportunity to witness his wonderful interactions with young students. His classes were a highlight of my time as a graduate student at Indiana University. As a member of the West Point Band’s Jazz Knights, I again witnessed his abilities and enthusiasm for working with both young students and professional musicians when we had the honor of having him as guest composer and clinician just before my retirement from the Army. He was just as wonderful a person as he was an educator, and will be greatly missed.

  59. Stephen Hodson

    While I never had the opportunity to take a class with David Baker, I fondly remember witnessing his legendary presence as he walked the halls of the MAC, conducted Big Band Orchestras, and played cello at Bear’s Place. Of those memories I do have of him, there is one that stands out. Upon exiting the MAC and walking towards Ballantine one fall day, he and I were caught walking towards each other in opposite direction – the only ones on the concrete path together. As I looked up, I noticed him. I must have been about 15 feet from him. We locked eyes, and while I have no idea if he recognized me from my time as a student in the audio recording program, he just smiled at me, winked, and walked on nonchalantly. It was one of the coolest experiences I have honestly ever had with a human being. No words were spoken, but there was a deep level of acknowledgement and communication that came from that moment. I instantly knew how good and great of a person he was. I have often thought of that moment and will continue to do so as his memory lives on in mine. Rest In Peace, Professor Baker. You were one hell of a cool cat.

  60. James E.

    I was watching a documentery on Benny Goodman and mentioned to my wife that Prof. Baker taught me everything I know about arrangements and jazz compositions. His class was one of the hardest on campus and I shared his texts with coworkers 13 years later to show what an education in jazz included for those that could get in the class. I thought to look him up while watching the program and learned of his passing tonight. Thank you Professor for the gifts and stories you provided to the world.

    James, Class of 2002

  61. Reid Spears

    I was devastated to get the news of David’s passing. To this day, after over a couple of decades of playing as a professional musician, I still credit David as one of the main reasons I play the way I do today. I walked into IU as a piano player with some degree of natural ability, and David forced me to break down my playing and completely start over, in a way, incorporating the concepts of jazz improvisation that he was teaching. For nearly a couple of years at IU, I was frustrated with my playing – it felt like everything was kind of a jumble in my head. But when I came out the other side, things started to click. I’m one of the fortunate ones who gets to make a living playing the piano. I hadn’t talked to him in many years, and I had planned to come to Bloomington for the concert honoring his retirement. I was looking forward to telling him how my career had turned out, and taking another opportunity to thank him for the major part he played in it. Realizing I wasn’t going to get that opportunity was probably the hardest part of all.

  62. Dru (Goertemiller) Doyle

    David Baker was one of those extremely rare human beings who you thought you could depend upon forever. He was ageless, selfless and massively prolific in the musical universe. I had the privilege of studying piano and jazz studies from David when I went to IU to study music and finish my degree. I didn’t know David Baker when I arrived in Bloomington but soon found out he was the Man. He turned out so many jazz students into the world and did it with devotion and caring for each and every one of us in his program. His energy and dedication carried us all and made us the best we could be musically.
    I remember my lessons like yesterday. I never heard a rough word or sensed a lack of patience no matter what level of musical skill. My music is still a large part of my life today, some 40 years later.
    His death will take some time to absorb. I hope he knew how much we cared for him as a teacher but also as a life long friend.
    God bless his family and close friends who miss him daily.


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