Adrienne Baker: FlutePursuit

Music is life. Live.

Premiere! - "Save One Life, You Save the World Entire

On Sunday, July 8th 2018, I had the privilege of premiering, with my duo partner Seychelle Dunn-Corbin a piece that NorthStar Duo commissioned about a year ago from composer Aaron Jay Myers at the Boston Sculptors Gallery in Boston, MA.

When we asked Aaron to compose a piece for a us, he wanted to write something that represented what we stood for as musicians. We spoke with Aaron about our passion for music as a vehicle for the exchange of ideas, and its role in social justice. To us, the community action component to what we do is just as important as the art itself. The inclusivity in our art is a call to action to spread that good will to others.

Aaron took our mission and words to heart. As described by Aaron below about the piece:

"During these troubled times of fear, hatred, and violence, it is hard not to face each day with a broken heart. For those of us who believe in peace, equality, logic, and human rights for all, the frustration and sadness caused by the rampant madness seems to have no end. It is imperative that we remind ourselves and each other how incredibly precious and fragile life is, and to be mindful of how our actions impact the world around us. Save One Life, You Save The World Entire is a paraphrase of the English translation from the Talmud. The original full passage has different translations that vary slightly, but this one states the overall idea well: "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud 4:9, Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a). The need for this sentiment is dire, and I wanted to express this through music. As a result, this piece is relentless and urgent.

Save One Life, You Save The World Entire was commissioned by Adrienne Baker and Seychelle D. Corbin of NorthStar Duo and completed in March of 2017."


We Are All In This Together, Reflections on the Service for Erica Garner

Yesterday I, along with many others of the public, gathered to support Erica Garner's family in their mourning at the service to pay their respects to Erica Garner

I'd never been to a service for a public figure before and it was powerful to see the impact that she had on her community. Strangers she hasn't even met, who came to mourn all the same at this tragic loss.

Al Sharpton spoke, and he reached my heart with his words. I was skeptical of what he would have to say; I have not always agreed with his approach, opinions, prescriptions for what we as a community should do to combat the institution of racism in our country. And that is precisely what he spoke about. He spoke about the strength of Erica, her determination, and her way to fight oppression, which was at times very different from his own. Yet, he made it clear he supported her all the same. He spoke of how different movements have existed at the same time yet we are all going in the same direction.

And that hit me, because his call to us in her memory was one I feel passionately about and have always gotten behind: we are all in this together. He says when they [the police] shoot us, they don't ask what religion we are, etc. They don't ask those deeper questions. So, we must uplift each other, lest we do their tearing down of ourselves for them.

Maybe that is what we can make 2018 about.

Adrienne Baker '07 works to bring composers of color front and center

Reblogged from Ithaca College's Alumni Website

Written by Nichole Bazemore Ithaca College Class of '94, 7/12/2017 

Ask people to name African American musicians who’ve influenced American pop culture, and the names will likely roll off their tongues: Beyoncé, Jay Z, Pharrell, Nicki Minaj. But ask them to name African American composers, and they’ll probably draw a blank.

Adrienne Baker ’07 wants to change that. The Boston resident and flutist, who describes herself as a “socially conscious musician,” is on a mission to celebrate musical composers of color by bringing them out of the wings and onto the stage.

“In 2015, only 4 percent of those employed by American orchestras, both men and women, were musicians of color. This includes Asian, Hispanic, and Black musicians,” says Baker, who graduated from IC with a degree in music performance. “Orchestras certainly don’t reflect the demographics of those seeking music degrees and the curriculums are only beginning to represent the diversity of our country—and the world. I have always been aware that I did not see very many people who look like me along my musical journey.”

That journey took her from her childhood home in Wilmington, Delaware, where her mother often played piano in the house (and got Baker started, too, at an early age), to Ithaca’s School of Music. While at IC, she studied abroad at the college’s London Center. IC has a partnership with the Royal Conservatory of Music, which enabled Baker to work with renowned flutist and teacher Susan Milan. “The ability to study aboard at the London Center my junior year was particularly meaningful and formative,” Baker says. “Ms. Milan pushed me to a new level, which at that time I did not know I was ready yet to achieve. I am still extremely grateful for this opportunity.”

Although her experience in London helped Baker discovered her love of classical music, she found that her curriculum didn’t introduce her to anyone who looked like her. Exposing composers of color to lay audiences, she realized, was a need she felt called—and compelled—to fulfill.

After graduating from IC—and at the suggestion of a friend and fellow flutist—Baker joined the Boston-based Castle of Our Skins, a concert and educational series dedicated to celebrating black artistry through music. It was there that she met female saxophonist Seychelle Dunn-Corbin. In 2016, they formed NorthStar Duo. The group travels throughout the greater Boston area, exposing audiences to the work of black composers through the unlikely pairing of these two wind instruments.

Between performances with NorthStar Duo, Baker is busy promoting The Women’s Equity Project, a concert and panel discussion that will be held August 16 in Boston. The project marries two of Baker’s passions: women composers and pay disparity, both in music and across professions. Baker says she got the idea years ago, when she worked in academia. Baker’s job was part of a “closed shop” union, meaning she had to join. In time, she became vice president of her bargaining unit and a member of her contract negotiating team. “I became even more passionate about pay equity and how it affects musicians, particularly women,” she notes.

Baker is active in Boston, too, as a part of IC’s alumni community. She’s volunteered time with other alumni to play at special IC events, and participates in the networking activities, having recently served as a School of Music ambassador.

Although she admits to having a “near-crippling” fear of performing in front of an audience, Baker says she’s driven by a need to lend her voice to others so they can feel stronger and more capable.

“I want audiences to know that black composers have written both post-modern and classical music. I want them to know that black women composers have arranged and written jazz. I want children in the audience to know that the saxophone isn’t necessarily an instrument for a boy, but that girls can play it, too, and play it well,” Baker says. “Audiences should know that classical music is more than just the symphony and ballet. It’s the result of traditions, stories, community, and family. 

Black Artists You Should Know: James Weldon Johnson

Some people are defined by a singular skill or specific contribution to society. Then there are those of us who have so much to give, their impact can be found across multiple disciplines touch a wide away of groups and people. Such is the case with composer, playwright, teacher, author, and poet James Weldon Johnson.

Read More

August 2017 Project Announcement

I am very eager to share with you plans for a project to highlight women's equity for equal work. We need your financial support to bring this project to fruition.

This project seeks to promote and celebrate the works of African American Women composers and bring attention to the opportunity and pay disparity that exists across a broad range of professions. Additionally, by presenting this program with cohort of all women performers, we will be giving opportunity to women in classical music to share what they have to offer with their community.

Most people are aware that, on average, women's take home salary is less than what a man makes. The disparity by ethnicity is not any more encouraging. To white women's 79% of a man's average salary, African American women make 63%. While Asian American women make more, on average, it is still less than a man, at 79% (see the National Organization of Women for complete demographic information). In classical music, the representation of African Americans, let alone women, is also disparaging. In 2015, 4% of those employed by American orchestras, men and women, were musicians of color.

By bringing attention to this disparity, this project will also provide artist opportunities to women by presenting a concert of works by Female African American composers, presented by a cohort of high quality women musicians.

Your donation will cover costs to produce this concert, including costs to pay the musicians a decent and fair wage for two rehearsals and one 45 minute concert of chamber works, production costs, publicity, and space rental. Grassroots work by community artists is not possible without your support. In order to ensure we meet our production timeline, we must raise the needed funds by December 15th. This project is also able to accept non-cash donations and welcomes support in the from of rehearsal space, volunteering, and matching gifts. 

Thank you in advance for your support of this project! Please do sign up for my newsletter to know how the project is developing.

Donate now to promote the works of Black Women Composers!

This project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of this project must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Pretty Little Salma: an Educational Debut

Dir. of Marketing and Programming Lynn Duvall introducing  Storytelling Through Music

Dir. of Marketing and Programming Lynn Duvall introducing Storytelling Through Music

It was that time of year once again for Free Fun Fridays in the city of Boston. I am thankful to the Museum of African American History for allowing COOS Educational Director Seychelle Dunn-Corbin and I to debut my new educational seminar Storytelling Through Music. Participants laughed, sang, and solved problems with us as we learned how music can be used to enhance Niki Daly's Pretty Little Salma. An Africanized retelling of Red Riding Hood, Niki Daly's tale allowed us to introduce to audiences how music can be used to symbolize objects and enhance the movements of the actors on stage. This gave a new meaning and life to how music can be used to represent the emotions that music can convey.

Storytelling Through Music was well received by our debut audience! They watched with trepidation as Mr. Dog (convincingly played by Ms. Dunn-Corbin) tricked Salma (played by yours truly) to turn over her favorite distinctive trinkets so that he could impersonate Salma at Granny's house. After our galvanized group effort to save Granny from Mr. Dog's clutches, thanks to help from the audience, they got to celebrate with us once Salma had been reunited with her family.

All and all, Seychelle and I had a wonderful time wearing our acting hats and look forward to sharing Pretty Little Salma with more audiences to come this COOS season.

Pretty Little Salma is published by Clarion Books and is available for purchase on amazon.

Seychelle and I in costume as Pretty Little Salma and Mr. Dog!

Seychelle and I in costume as Pretty Little Salma and Mr. Dog!

Want to bring Storytelling Through Music or another one of the COOS educational seminars to your school or community center? Contact Educational Director Seychelle Dunn to schedule a performance!