David Nathaniel Baker, Jr. was born December 21, 1931 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is Distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman of the Jazz Department at the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, as well as conductor and artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. A virtuoso performer on multiple instruments and top in his field in several disciplines, Mr. Baker has taught and performed throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. He is also the conductor and musical & artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
Mr. Baker received both bachelor's and master's degrees in music education from Indiana University and has studied with a wide range of master teachers, performers and composers including J.J. Johnson, Bobby Brookmeyer, Janos Starker, George Russell, William Russo, Bernard Heiden, and Gunther Schuller, among others. A 1973 Pulitzer Prize nominee, Mr. Baker was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1979, and has been honored three times by Down Beat magazine -- as a trombonist, for lifetime achievement, and as the third inductee to their Jazz Education Hall of Fame.
Mr. Baker has received numerous awards, including the National Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame Award (1981), President's Award for Distinguished Teaching from Indiana University (1986), the Arts Midwest Jazz Masters Award (1990), the Governor's Arts Award of the State of Indiana (1991), the Indiana Historical Society’s Living Legend Award (2001), the James Smithson Medal from the Smithsonian Institution (2002), the American Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts (2000), and an Emmy Award (2003) for his musical score for the PBS documentary For Gold and Glory. He has received honorary doctorates from Wabash College, Oberlin College, and the New England Conservatory of Music. In 2007 he was honored by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with their Living Jazz Legend Award.
As a composer Mr. Baker has been commissioned by more than 500 individuals and ensembles, including Josef Gingold, Ruggerio Ricci, Janos Starker, Harvey Phillips, the New York Philharmonic, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Beaux Arts Trio, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the Louisville Symphony, the Ohio Chamber Orchestra, the Audubon String Quartet, the International Horn Society, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Plymouth Music Series. His compositions total more than 2,000 in number, including jazz and symphonic works, chamber music, and ballet and film scores.
Mr. Baker's service in music organizations is wide-ranging and includes membership on the National Council on the Arts; board positions for the American Symphony Orchestra League, Arts Midwest, and the Afro-American Bicentennial Hall of Fame/Museum; and past chairs of the Jazz Advisory Panel to the Kennedy Center and the Jazz/Folk/Ethnic Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. He is past president and past vice president of the International Association for Jazz Education, and past president of the National Jazz Service Organization. He currently serves as senior consultant for music programs for the Smithsonian Institution. He has served a number of times on the Pulitzer Prize Music Jury and is Chair of the Jazz Faculty of the Steans Institute for Young Artists at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL. He has more than 65 recordings, 60 books, and 400 articles to his credit.