FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music awarded its inaugural David N. Baker Professorship to Brent Wallarab, associate professor of jazz studies, in a virtual presentation during its livestreamed Latin Jazz Ensemble concert last night in IU Bloomington’s Musical Arts Center.
The professorship was established in tribute to the late distinguished professor of music and chair of the Jazz Studies Department by his wife, Lida Baker. “In creating the David N. Baker Professorship,” she said, “I wanted to honor both his passion for teaching and his love for our cherished Indiana University family of students, alumni, faculty, staff, administration, colleagues and friends—past, present and future.
“It is especially meaningful for me that Brent Wallarab is the inaugural recipient of this professorship. Beginning with Brent’s arrival in 1987 as a graduate student in the IU Jazz Studies Department, he and David shared a wonderful personal and professional friendship of nearly 30 years. I am so proud that Brent’s musical excellence, inspiring teaching and dedication to honoring David’s legacy at the IU Jacobs School of Music are being recognized in this very special way.”
“I am very pleased that David Baker’s legacy will live on through this professorship and that Brent Wallarab is the premier recipient,” said Walsh. “Brent has long been a champion of David’s music, and his professional big band, the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, has released two CDs featuring it. As fellow trombonists and composer/arrangers, Brent and David had a special bond that is celebrated by this award.”
“David was the sole reason I came to Bloomington” said Wallarab. “From my start as a shy and slightly nervous trombone player in his band, I would have an unceasing professional and personal relationship with David for the next 29 years. Not a day goes by that I am not fully aware of my good fortune, and so much of that is because of David.”
From student to Baker’s graduate assistant, Wallarab transitioned into a founding member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, where he worked with Baker for 20 years. Baker cofounded the orchestra and served as its conductor and musical and artistic director from 1990 to 2012.
During that time, Wallarab joined the Jazz Studies Department faculty, eventually becoming director of the jazz ensemble that Baker had led and teaching some of his classes.
“Carrying this title is an honor, and I will continue to teach and mentor my students to the very best of my ability while embracing the legacy of my teacher, mentor, boss and friend David Baker,” Wallarab said.
A member of the Jacobs School of Music faculty from 1966 until his death in 2016, Baker founded the Jazz Studies program and served as its chair from 1968 to 2013.
Top in his field in several disciplines, Baker taught and performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Baker’s exceptional career earned him numerous awards and honors, including an American Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts (2000), Emmy Award (2003), Living Jazz Legend Award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2007) and Pulitzer Prize (1973) and Grammy Award (1979) nominations.
As a composer, Baker was commissioned by more than 100 individuals and ensembles. His compositions, tallying more than 2,000 in number, range from jazz pieces and symphonic works to chamber music and film scores.
Baker’s prolific body of work includes more than 65 recordings, 70 books and 400 articles.
“But at the heart of it all was teaching; it was a sacred calling for him,” said Lida Baker. “His dear longtime friend Quincy Jones said that David ‘always chose his teaching and his students as his principal calling. The choice to dedicate one’s life to helping others achieve their aspirations is a mark of a truly selfless and kind person.’”