Remembering David Baker

by Scott Gotschall


ALUMNI RECEPTION: Celebrating David Baker’s 50th Year at IUOn March 26th, 2016, the Jacobs School of Music lost long-time faculty member David Baker, Chair Emeritus of the IU Jazz Studies Department. He was in his fiftieth year on faculty. Words cannot begin to express the extent to which we miss his intellect, dedication, and humor.

While much has been said in publications ranging from the Indiana Daily Student to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, perhaps the most personal reflections have come from Professor Baker’s former students. IU Jazz Studies chair Tom Walsh set up a Facebook group titled “Remembering David Baker,” in which many of the 900-plus members have shared their reflections, memories, and homages to the late mentor. The Jacobs School of Music has also created a “Remembrances” page where visitors are encouraged to post their tributes.  A select few entries appear at the end of this article.

As we strive to honor David Baker’s life’s work as a performer, composer, author, and educator, we can recognize that it is through each of us —how he inspired us and how we then inspire others — that his legacy lives on. We will include information about an upcoming celebration of David’s life and music in our next newsletter later this month.

Read the Jacobs School of Music’s press release about David Baker here.


From Remembering David Baker on facebook:

His incredible generosity made me a better teacher. – Laura Rexroth

He truly took time to listen to you, to honestly care about you and your successes and challenges.  – Michael Tracy

 As large as his pedigree was, that was dwarfed by the size of his heart and generosity. – Mike Reifenberg

We will miss having his on-going contributions, but he has left the world so rich and with such a wonderful legacy. – Lynn Baker

His prodigious memory aside (I mean 30+ years and he still remembers me?!?), he was a generous spirit, a true mensch, a connection to jazz history, a brilliant mind that codified and structured the inner workings of jazz; and was able to put it all into context – and play it – and did I mention teach it?  – Chris Bell

Whether this was with his stars or just some lost, flakey freshman kid, David always seemed to know what to say to sort of gas up the tank. – Joe Auty

David seemed to have a gift for telling exactly what people needed and when. He seemed to know exactly when to be hard on you and when to lift you up. – Justin Mabrey

 He is an incredible genius and I am honored to have known him and been touched by his greatness.  – Mary Jo Papich

After every encounter with David, I was motivated to go back and try to accomplish more than I had before. His work ethic and his intellect were an inspiration. – Edwin Lacy

He was a wonderful teacher. His words will inspire me for the rest of my life. – Martha Dycus

For the last few years I have thought a lot about what students get from working with David, and the word that I think sums it up is encouragement. He was always helping people believe they can do more than they thought they could do. – Tom Walsh

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