Jazz legend graces CSU

Nov 052003
Authors: Danny Byers

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





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