Those who consider jazz, arguably America’s only true original
art form, to be too laborious to listen to have never heard
American jazz legend David Baker jam with the CSU music department.
Now they have the chance.
David Baker, an award-winning composer, performer and educator
of jazz is the honored guest at the 23rd Rocky Mountain
Contemporary Music Festival.
“He is our Mount Rushmore figure of jazz. He got it started,”
said CSU professor of jazz and saxophone Peter Sommer who first
heard of Baker when he read “How to Play BeBop,” one of Baker’s
many books on jazz.
Sommer said that he and his students were ecstatic to hear that
Baker was coming to CSU and they have all worked very hard in
preparing for him. He encourages everyone to come see the festival
where music is at its best.
“Jazz is not designed to be background music. Real jazz provides
a certain level of challenge that isn’t necessarily presented in a
lot of popular music today,” Sommer said. “I think a lot of people
are turned off by the fact that jazz is largely instrumental and
lacking lyrics. You have to be prepared to listen. Sometimes people
aren’t willing to take that extra leap that is really worth
For those who haven’t taken that leap, now is the time.
All of the music at the festival is written by Baker, but the
pieces that will be performed are a surprise, Sommer said. Baker
will work with many faculty and students in varied jazz ensembles
and orchestras during the two-day festival.
Baker has written over 200 books and has composed thousands of
pieces that all vary in nature and style. To miss him would be a
grave mistake, said Pete Tolsma, publicity director of the music,
theatre and dance department of performing arts.
“David Baker is one of the key influences of modern jazz.
Instrumentally, he made it what it is today,” Tolsma said. “To have
somebody of this caliber and magnitude come to CSU is very
The Rocky Mountain Contemporary Music Festival begins on Monday
in the music building recital hall at 7:30 p.m. and an additional
performance can be seen on Tuesday in the Lory Student Center
Theatre beginning at 7:30 p.m.
This very rare event was difficult to organize since Baker is
such a huge figure in the jazz community and is very busy as the
director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the
president of the International Association of Jazz education and
the director of music at Indiana University, according to
“I hope people take advantage of the fact of what a rare
opportunity this is,” Tolsma said.
Info Box (if needed): Baker has been nominated for both a
Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy and has received numerous awards
including the National Endowment for the Arts American Jazz Masters
Award, the National Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame