Choir Maestro Conducts Path to National Acclaim

Published: November 06, 2014 | Author: Jessica Young | Read Time: 3 minutes

Kevin Baker receives The American Prize for conducting. Almost like a dance, Kevin L. Baker begins to float his arms in the air, slightly swaying with eyes half closed, focusing on the music being performed by the Southern Utah University Opus Choir. These interpretive movements by Baker as the choir conductor hint toward the choir to stress a subtle phrase in the verse is an art form for him and clearly is to The American Prize who presented Baker with The American Prize in Conducting in the college/university division.

Selected from conductors from all across the nation’s top universities, Maestro Baker’s conducting was commended by the this year’s judges, who commented, “…clear and expressive, reflecting the musical style of each piece…a conductor easy to sing for…”

Baker received further praise from Shauna Mendini, dean of SUU’s College of Performing and Visual Arts, “Dr. Baker's achievement of national recognition confirms what we observe on a day-to-day basis, a faculty member with exceptional skills who is dedicated to student success. We are immensely proud of Dr. Baker in receiving this national honor.”

This conducting master gives full credit to his students, who he said perform at such a caliber that he can then conduct at a higher level.

“The high quality of students here allow me to increase my craft because I don’t have to teach those functional elements, those are already in place,” stated Baker. “Because of my students’ talents I can speak, through my conducting, at a much more delicate and detailed level, which I believe set me a part.”

Baker’s intricate and delightful style of conducting doesn’t just lead his choirs to perform bewitching pieces, it is also conducting the education and goals of his students, like Taylor Rowley, senior music education, who hopes his professor’s teaching style will carry through once he becomes a high school music teacher.

“He is always adapting his conducting to each group, song or situations without losing any clarity,” said Rowley. “Like if the song is very robust he comes across big, if the song is small he is nice; Professor Baker is a conductor, not just a metronome, which is helpful because that is the type of teacher I want to be.”

The American Prize grew from the belief that a great deal of excellent music being made in this country goes unrecognized and unheralded, not only in major cities, but across the country. With the performing arts in America marginalized like never before, The American Prize seeks to fill the gap that leaves excellent artists and ensembles struggling for visibility and viability. The American Prize recognizes and rewards the best America produces.

David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize, said of the recognition, “Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps even be nominated. But that does not mean that they are not worthy of recognition and reward. Quality in the arts is not limited to the coasts, or to the familiar names. It is on view all over the United States, if you take the time to look for it.”

Winners of The American Prize receive cash prizes, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition based on recorded performances.

Baker’s next performance with the SUU Opus and Concert Choirs will be it’s annual Holiday Concert December 4 at the Cedar City Heritage Center. 

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