Jazz concert raises money for memorial scholarship fund

Headshot of Dr. John Baker.

Leah McCoy

Headshot of Dr. John Baker.

An annual jazz concert commemorating the life and career of Parkway West band teacher Dr. John Baker will take place on Thursday, May 29 from 7 – 9:30 p.m. at the Sky Music Lounge, located at 930 Kehrs Mill Rd. in Ballwin (in the Barn at Lucerne at the corner of Kehrs Mill and Clayton Roads). Students are welcome if accompanied by an adult.

“Back when I was at West during my senior year we had a team of clinicians come in and work with us for four days. That was West’s (and I believe the district’s) first band camp. This is when Bob Waggonner was the band director.  When Mr. Waggonner left, John was hired as the band director. Since John knew of me and my experience at West (and with a nationally ranked marching band from Oskaloosa, Iowa) through Meramec, John hired me in to help clinic the marching band.  I served in that role for ten years,” Davis said.

Dr. Baker was the band director at Parkway West High School from 1978-1994, and Baker, though he was never Davis’ Director, was a friend, mentor and colleague to him. Every year since his death in 2001, “The Faculty and Friends Big Band,” a group made up of colleagues, friends and former students, performs a tribute concert to honor his memory.

“John and I met in the Monday night ‘kicks’ band at Meramec Community College.  Back in the day, that band was a place where a lot of professional musician played to keep ‘chops up.’ He is remembered for his passion for music, dedication to and belief in his students, high expectations and laughter,” Davis said.

Admission for the concert is a $10 minimum donation at the door. Proceeds will go to the John Baker Scholars Fund, which benefits band students through the Parkway Alumni Association (PAA) Granting Dreams Program. All donations are tax-deductible.

“During that time I got to see John turn from a new band director into one of the premier band directors in the country.  He was always very focused on improving the band by improving every single student involved.  He was fun, energetic, knowledgeable and had a great instinct for challenging students in a way that made them rise to the occasion,” Davis said. Granting Dreams provides students with educational opportunities that are above and beyond the scope of the classroom. To date, the PAA has awarded over $225,000 in monetary grants and filled 100+ community resource grants.

John kept after me to get my music degree.  He always treated me as a colleague and gave me every opportunity to grow as a teacher.  I know that he lobbied on my behalf to be hired in Parkway. I owe a great deal of my teaching career to him,” Southwest Middle band director Drew Davis said.

To learn more, visit www.parkwayalumni.org.