Music to My Ears: Farewell Professor James Baker!


What’s good y’all!? My name is Deionte Appling, sophomore class of 2016 here at Brown, and I’m a music and psychology concentrator. Alongside Eimi, I write for the Music to My Ears column for the Bruin Club Prospective Blog. Fun Facts: I sing in chorus, I occasionally perform operas with Brown Opera Productions, and I love Robert Plant! Music to My Ears is the prospective student’s gateway to the life of music at Brown, and I’ll attempt to show you the ins and outs of our music department to the best of my knowledge!

Just this past week, Brown’s music department put on Music Theory at Brown:  A Tribute to Professor James M. Baker, which consisted of performances from our own faculty and panel presentations of some of his former students, to commemorate the retirement of Professor James Baker.  This event was truly dear to me because Professor Baker was my introduction to studying music theory as an academic discipline when I took MUSC0550-0560 (Theory of Tonal Music) and learned the basics of Schenkerian Analysis. Professor Baker was easily one of my most favourite professors because of how much he showed to care that his students understood the material, his interest in knowing each student’s personal abilities and styles, and also simply because of how easy he was to approach.  Initially, he was simply on sabbatical, so I waited an entire year to ensure that I continue my theory studies under Professor Baker.  That (sadly) will never come to be.

One of the best treats of this tribute was listening to his former students and how he influenced their current work.  The amount of belief that he instilled in his former students is certainly paying off.  One that stood out to me was how someone is currently researching the theory analysis of Rock music.  He found that in some instances, while the tonal structure is still in place, it’s somewhat displaced, with examples that use IV chords or even I7 chords as the dominant.

It was also great to finally hear some of our professors perform.  Just reading their credentials (and stalking their CV’s) makes one want to hear and see them perform just to get a feel of seeing one practice what they preach.  Professor Baker performed with Arlene Cole, who devised the musicianship coursework and heads the piano performance here, putting on Schubert’s Fantasia in F minor for four hands, which of course was beautiful to experience.

Professor James Baker will truly be missed in our department.  I will always wish that I had the opportunity to take another course with him, but 30 years of his presence at Brown is more than enough.

For those of you tickled by curiosity, would like to express your love for me, or simply want to chat about any and all things music, please feel free to email your questions or comments to and I’ll get back ‘atcha ASAP!


If it ain’t Baroque… Let it play!



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