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Last modified: Monday, January 23, 2012

David Baker receives President's Medal at 80th birthday celebration

Jan. 23, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie presented the President's Medal for Excellence to David Baker, distinguished professor of jazz studies and chair of the Jazz Studies Department at the Jacobs School of Music.

Baker Honored

David Baker, distinguished professor of jazz studies and chair of the Jazz Studies Department at the Jacobs School of Music, received the President's Medal for Excellence at a musical celebration of his 80th birthday.

Print-Quality Photo

The presentation was made during a musical celebration honoring Baker's 80th birthday on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Musical Arts Center. The President's Medal is one of the highest awards the university can bestow.

"David Baker is an innovative and virtuosic performer, a prolific composer, a dedicated jazz educator and an Indiana University treasure," McRobbie said. "While David would likely demur, and insist that only Davis, Coltrane, Coleman, Russell, Armstrong, Young, Parker, Rollins, Gillespie and perhaps one or two others meet the criteria as major figures in jazz, I think we all agree that David himself is such a figure -- one who is important on his instrument, one who has transcended his era, one who has transformed improvisation and composition, and one who influences all who follow."

McRobbie also announced that Indiana University will match all donations up to $100,000 made to the David N. Baker Jazz Scholarship Fund, established by the Jacobs School of Music in celebration of Baker's career and his devotion to his students. Donations may be made via U.S. mail in care of the Indiana University Foundation, P.O. Box 6460, Indianapolis, IN 46206-6460; or online at by clicking on the "Give Now" button and using account number P38I002551. For more information, contact the Jacobs School of Music Office of Development at 812-855-4737 or visit

Baker, an Indianapolis native, is an award-winning musician, composer and educator who has performed and taught throughout the world. Referred to by longtime "Tonight Show" bandleader Doc Severinsen as a "mighty cool cat," Baker is credited with 140 recordings as a performer, composer, arranger or conductor. He's also written 70 books, 400 articles and more than 2,000 compositions, including jazz, symphonic and chamber works.

He has served as musical and artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra since its inception, and the 2011-12 academic year marks his 45th year of teaching at Indiana University.

He has received numerous honors and awards, including the American Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Living Jazz Legend Award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Indiana Living Legend Award. He is a Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize nominee, and he won an Emmy Award in 2003.

For more information about Baker, visit

The President's Medal recognizes, among other criteria, distinction in public service, service to IU, and extraordinary merit and achievement in the arts, humanities, sciences, education and industry. The medal itself is a reproduction in silver of the symbolic jewel of office worn by Indiana University's president at ceremonial occasions.

A list of past recipients of the President's Medal is available here. Note: The list does not include emeriti faculty members John Preer and Ting-Kai Li, who received the president's medal in September 2011; Vice President Emeritus Patrick O'Meara, who received the award in November 2011; and Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson, who received the award in January 2012.