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Composer Claude Baker receives two major IU distinctions

IU Jacobs School of Music Professor of Composition Claude Baker has received two of Indiana University's most distinguished accolades.

This spring, Baker was appointed to the rank of Chancellor's Professor, a title that is reserved for Indiana University Bloomington professors who have achieved local, national, and international recognition in teaching, research, and creative activity.

This fall, Chancellor's Professor Baker will receive the Indiana University 2007 Tracey M. Sonneborn Award, an annual award that recognizes a Bloomington faculty member who has achieved international recognition for work as a creative artist, researcher, scholar, and educator.

"We are excited to learn of the latest recognition bestowed upon Claude Baker," said Jacobs School of Music Dean Gwyn Richards. "His accomplishments in music place him at the forefront of composing in our time. Through the works he has written, the leadership he provides his profession, his commitment to the university, and the many achievements of his students, he has become universally admired. We congratulate Claude on the new high honors."

Claude Baker's compositions have earned a reputation for excellence, sophistication, and beauty, especially in the area of orchestral music. Internationally acclaimed conductor, and recent Jacobs faculty appointee, Leonard Slatkin has declared Baker to be one of the three "best young symphonic composers in America."

Baker spent eight years as composer-in-residence for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO), while Slatkin was music director. During this time, he composed five large-scale works for the orchestra and two pieces d'occasion. Baker's eight-year association with the SLSO is the longest such residency to date of any composer with a major orchestra in the United States.

Among the many orchestras that have performed his music are those of San Francisco, Atlanta, Pittsburgh,and Louisville, as well as the New York Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfonica de RTV Española,and the Orquesta Nacional de España.

In May 2005, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of music director Mario Venzago, premiered Baker's Maerchenbilder, a composition that was commissioned jointly with the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in celebration of the ISO's 75th anniversary. Prior to that performance, Maestro Venzago wrote the following assessment of Professor Baker's music in a letter to the composer:

"I have to confess that in recent years I have never been so touched by new music. First of all, the scores are technically perfect and have the mastery of Ravel and Stravinsky. Every piece is different and written with plenty of fantasy and inner necessity. And finally, the music goes to the heart . . . and I have been überwältigt by emotion."

Appreciation for Baker is equally striking among his colleagues at IU. "In the 18 years that I have known Claude," comments Professor David Dzubay,chair of the Composition Department, "I've observed him to be a dedicated, unflagging teacher and a composer whose works are admired by students and faculty for their imagination, sensitivity, and craft of the highest order."

In 2002, in recognition of his work in the orchestral medium, Dr. Baker was selected as the recipient of an Academy Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His other professional kudos include two Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards; the Eastman-Leonard and George Eastman Prizes; a "Manuel de Falla" Prize (Madrid); BMI-SCA and ASCAP awards; a commission from the Fromm Music Foundation; and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, and the state arts councils of Indiana, Kentucky, and New York. Indiana University has also honored him with grants from the Arts and Humanities Initiative, and the New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Program, and with several Summer Faculty Fellowships.

In the academic arena, Baker has amassed over 30 years of collegiate teaching experience, having held appointments at the University of Georgia, the University of Louisville, and the Eastman School of Music prior to assuming his current position at Indiana University. During the past four years, he has served as the chair of the Composition Department. Because he is widely known for his contributions as a music educator, he is frequently sought after as a guest at other academic institutions in this country and abroad.

Baker's work as an educator extends well beyond the realm of academia, however. During his years with the Saint Louis Symphony, he developed a number of community-based initiatives that were aimed at providing creative opportunities in composition for young people. In appreciation of his contributions to the musical life of the city, the University of Missouri-St. Louis awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1999.

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The Sonneborn Award, established by the IU Office of the Dean of Faculties, is named after an IU biologist, Distinguished Professor Tracy M. Sonneborn, geneticist and Indiana University Distinguished Professor of Zoology, who came to IU in 1939 and became world renowned for his accomplishments in biological studies, especially genetics. He died in 1981.

Past Jacobs School awardees are Distinguished Professor David N. Baker (2006) and Distinguished Professor Janos Starker (1985, the first recipient.)