Contact: Sasha Steinberg
STARKVILLE, Miss.—A faculty member in Mississippi State’s Department of Music has released a new album, his first recorded entirely on marimba.
Professor Jason Baker’s “All Saints” is available for streaming and download on such popular sites as Bandcamp, Spotify and Apple Music. For digital album access, visit https://jasonbakerpercussion.bandcamp.com.
The album represents the culmination of a five-year project in which Baker commissioned new works for the marimba from five Mississippi composers. He has performed them throughout the country, promoting contemporary classical music from the Mississippi State community and the Magnolia State as a whole.
“Each composer was given total artistic freedom to write whatever they wanted, and the result is a collection of music as complex and eclectic as Mississippi itself,” said Baker, who previously released three albums as a solo percussionist.
The five works featured on the album include “Nocturnal Dance” by MSU senior music education major Carlos L. Kemp Jr. of Starkville; “All Saints” by Paul Heindl of Clinton, instructor of percussion, music theory lab, and rock band at Hinds Community College; “McKenzie River Ferns” by Shandy Phillips of Starkville, founder and teacher at Starkville Strings School; and “Framing Silence” by Warren Ertle of Jackson, composer pursuing his doctorate in music composition at the University of Alabama.
The album concludes with “Concertpiece for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble,” a pop-fushion showpiece composed by MSU Associate Director of Bands Clifton Taylor.
Baker started learning the marimba at age 17 when preparing to audition for the University of Connecticut’s undergraduate music program. He said he enjoys this instrument because it allows him to perform new music by living composers along with works originally written for other instruments.
“I had played drums since the age of 10, but acceptance into a college music program requires percussionists to be fluent on a variety of different instruments—marimba being one of them,” he said. “I like the marimba because it involves the physicality of playing percussion, in addition to the elements of music that other instruments get to enjoy, such as melody and harmony.”
Baker explained that the marimba has gained popularity with concert audiences in recent decades. Originating centuries ago in Africa, the instrument later migrated to Latin America and arrived in the early 20th century on the American concert stage, where it has since been the focus of solos, concertos and ensemble music by composers around the world. Constructed of tuned wooden bars, much like a xylophone, the marimba features an extended range of lower notes and is frequently played with two mallets in each hand.
Along with serving on the MSU music faculty, Baker maintains an active performing schedule throughout the U.S. As a composer and arranger, he has published over 30 works for solo percussion and two instructional books. He is an artist endorser for the Yamaha Corporation of America, Innovative Percussion, Remo, Sabian, and Grover Pro Percussion.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.