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John Baker

UNI marching band director dies

By EMILY GRAHAM, Courier Staff Writer

As the University of Northern Iowa Marching Band prepares for this weekend's performance during Homecoming, it will have to do so without its band director.

John Baker, 50, died Saturday, October 6, 2001, at University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City after suffering a brain aneurysm at the September 29 football game. Baker was in his third year of directing the university's symphonic and marching band and also was an assistant professor.

John Vallentine, Director of the UNI School of Music, said the aneurysm started during half-time of the game and escalated during the second half, but Baker "remained for the entire game."

Baker leaves behind his wife, a choral conductor at the university, and three children, a freshman at Florida State University and a 4-year-old and 2-year-old at home.

Members of the Marching Band raised more than $200 to fly Baker's daughter back from Florida.

Senior Katy Heiland said band members brought in as much money as they could spare last week to make sure his daughter got home.

"We thought we would have a little more time, but because of his condition they flew her up here sooner than we expected," Heiland said. "We will be reimbursing the person who bought her the ticket."

Heiland said Baker will be sorely missed by the 200 Marching Band students, who will wear new T-shirts during the stand show this weekend with purple hearts and Baker's initials in memory of their fallen instructor.

"He did amazing things with our organization, especially as far as getting us to work together more and perform better," she said.

And Baker was quick to tell others about the progress his students were making.

"Friday night (September 28) he attended the scholarship benefit concert, and I asked how the show was going for the weekend. He told me the UNI band was the best group of students he ever had and that the students were amazing," Vallentine said.

Vallentine was slightly surprised by the comment, considering Baker was director of the Florida State University Marching Band, well-known for their excellence. Baker spent two years as assistant director and then director of their marching band as well as teaching courses in band literature, conducting, and music education. Earlier he served for 16 years with the Parkway West High School Bands in St. Louis. During the summer of 1998, Baker served as a guest conductor for the Queensland State Youth Ensemble in Brisbane, Australia.

"He told me he had good bands (in Florida), but there was something special about these kids in Iowa," Vallentine said. "I rehearsed with the band on Tuesday, and I think he is right. On Saturday people will hear his band and see his show. This is something special he has created."

Faculty members have taken over Baker's classes until a final decision can be made.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Nazareth Evangelical Lutheran Church on the corner of University Avenue and Main Street in Cedar Falls.

Copyright Waterloo Courier, October 8, 2001, page C3.


John Lynn Baker, 50, of Cedar Falls, died Saturday October 6, 2001, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, from complications of a brain aneurysm.

He was born September 3, 1951, in Springfield, Missouri, son of Marcellis and Anna Lee Baker. He married Sandra House, and they divorced. He married Dyan Carroll on November 13, 1993.

Dr. Baker held a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, a master's degree from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, and received his Ph. D. in music education from Florida State University. He taught at Parkway West High School, St. Louis, for sixteen years, and at Florida State University for two years. He served as director of symphonic and marching bands, and had taught music education and conducting courses at the University of Northern Iowa since 1999.

Survived by: his wife; three daughters, Kayla Nicole, Lauren Elizabeth, and Jessica Lynn; his parents of Clever, Missouri; a brother, Richard; and two sisters, Susan and Leetta.

Preceded in death by: a brother, Avery Lewis.

Memorial services: 2 p.m. today at Nazareth Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cedar Falls, with burial in Wise Hill Cemetery, Clever, at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Memorials: may be directed to Parkway Education Foundation, 455 N. Woods Mill Road, Chesterfield, Missouri 63110; FSU Foundation, 225 University Center, Building C, Suite 3100, Tallahassee, Florida 32306; or UNI Foundation, 205 Commons, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0282. Specify for the John Baker Scholarship Fund.

Copyright Waterloo Courier, October 10, 2001, page C2.

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