Ben Baker

Assistant Professor of Music Theory

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Biography

Ben Baker’s research focuses primarily on cross-pollinations between jazz and popular music, with a broader interest in forging links between models of musical structure and interpretive issues related to intertextuality, improvisation, agency, and affordance. He has presented this work at various national and regional conferences, and his recent paper on harmony in the music of jazz pianist Robert Glapser received the Patricia Carpenter Emerging Scholar Award (2019). His publications appear or are forthcoming in Music Theory Online, Theory and Practice, and the Eastman Case Studies series.

An engaging and dynamic classroom teacher, Ben has received both the University of Rochester’s Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student (2019) and Eastman’s Teaching Assistant Prize (2016). He currently serves as the treasurer for the Music Theory Society of New York State, having recently completed a two-year term on the Society’s Board of Directors (2017-19). He also recently served a term as co-webmaster for Eastman’s student-run music theory journal Intégral (2018-19), during which he assisted with the journal’s transition to an online, open-access format.

In addition to his work as a theorist, Ben is an experienced pianist. Before coming to Eastman, he worked as a full-time freelance musician in New York City, where he performed regularly as a jazz and pop keyboardist in various professional ensembles; as a pianist in musical theater and cabaret productions; as a collaborative pianist with choirs and vocal soloists; and as a church musician. He also worked for four years as a regular music director, collaborative pianist, and vocal coach in NYU Steinhardt’s Vocal Performance Department (2011-15). He remains active as a pianist in both New York and Rochester. Outside of his musical pursuits, Ben is an avid runner, and he adores spending time with his wife and young son. He holds degrees from Eastman (Ph.D. in music theory, expected 2020; M.A. in music theory, 2018), NYU (M.M. in jazz piano performance, 2011), and St. Olaf College (B.A. in music and mathematics, 2009).