William Perry Baker was introduced to the oboe in high school, and a musical romance followed.
Along the way, Baker taught, mentored and entertained dozens of young oboists, many of whom are now paying homage to their teacher and friend who died on August 11 at the age of 85.
âA master of his craft and quite the character,â said Nancy King, retired Upper Arlington music teacher.
âHe taught me to hear myself in the orchestra,â said Stephen Secan, who succeeded Baker as principal oboist of the Columbus Symphony.
âHe could be as serious and teacher as you want and a big blunderer too,â said Lora Lynn Snow, executive director of the Ohio Valley Symphony in Gallipolis.
Baker, originally from Arkansas, grew up playing – but not liking – the clarinet, he told Snow in a video interview in 2016. When he arrived in high school, a harmony teacher handed him over to him. an oboe to try. He quickly produced a low B flat – not easy for an oboe – impressed the professor and convinced Baker that he had found the woods of fate.
âIt was a love story from the start,â Baker said.
Teach in Ohio State, play in Columbus Symphony, help start ProMusica
Baker went on to study oboe in college and eventually got a post at Ohio State University in 1962 as the school’s first oboe teacher. He also became the principal oboist of the Columbus Symphony.
After leaving the orchestra in 1976, Baker became one of the founders of the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.
He has also taught oboe at Capital University, served as Music Director of the Land of Legend Symphony in Newark, and established oboe camps for aspiring musicians in Ohio. In his spare time, he cooks (Baker was known for his fashionable southern recipes) and obtains an airplane pilot’s license.
Baker and his second wife, Vivian, turned their house into something of a central oboe for the students, Snow said.
âHe and Viv took us all under their wing and invited us over for many meals, sometimes making people pass through overnight. We babysat their children and did chores while they went on their many trips. Bill told scandalous stories (some might have been true) and always had jokes to tell. He was extremely confident, and you really have to play the oboe, and he taught us to put up with obnoxious conductors. “
Curtis, one of Baker’s four children, said one of his favorite childhood memories is leaning over the railing of an Ohio Theater balcony before a concert, watching his Father meticulously test the oboe reeds to make sure he chose the one that would sound best that night. . The boy would clap in appreciation.
âA son’s pride in his father’s job was tremendous,â Curtis said.
Baker is also survived by children Justin, Ellen and John. The family are planning a memorial service in October.
Without a doubt, the hall will be filled with oboists.
Joe Blundo is a Dispatch columnist.