How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

By Geoff Lee

June 14, 2016 7:52 AM

Jan Berry Baker (l), who first picked up a saxophone as a student at Barr Colony Elementary School, performed at Carnegie Hall on March 8

Former Lloyd musician knows the punchline

File this under small town girl makes good.
Jan Berry Baker, now 40, has gone from playing her first note on a saxophone at Barr Colony Elementary School to performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City on March 8.
“That’s every musicians’ dream come true,” she said.
“It was a huge event for sure.”
Dr. Jan Baker, as she is sometimes called, with her Doctor of Music degree from Northwestern University, is an associate professor of saxophone today at Georgia State University, where she was reached by phone.
She has been featured as a concerto soloist with several orchestras in Canada and the United States and with the National Symphony of the Ukraine.
She is currently recording a new disc for saxophone and percussion coming out this fall, called Diamorpha, on the Centaur label.
Playing before her family at Carnegie Hall was just a childhood flight of fantasy when she began playing in the sixth grade band at Barr Colony.
“That’s just a pipe dream that one dreams about of all the great places you could play in life,” she said from Georgia.
“It’s quite a spectacular venue and of course, a great honour to play on that stage.”
At Georgia State, Baker is the co-artistic director and saxophonist with the Atlanta-based new music ensemble Bent Frequency working with Stuart Gerber, a percussionist.
Over the past three and a half years, she and Gerber have commissioned more than 20 different composers to write pieces for saxophone and percussion.
“One of the people who wrote us a piece was having a celebration concert at Carnegie hall and invited us to come and perform the piece that was written for us,” she explained.
“My mom and dad and my sister were there—they flew up to New York for the weekend so we got to see a bunch of Broadway shows and adventure around New York City.
“It was very special to have my family to see such a monumental event.”
Her parents, Jim and Joanne Berry, who live in Lloydminster, caught a flight from Mesa Arizona where the retirees spend their winters and met their other daughter Bobbi Kozicki from Sherwood Park in New York City.
“It was incredible; it’s a very ornate prestigious hall,” said Jim.
“As you can imagine, it was quite a trip of a lifetime—it was something unbelievable to be a part of.”
Jim taught school in Lloyd for more than 40 years, including 30 years at Lloydminster Comprehensive High School, where his daughter attended as an accomplished musician.
A family friend and music supporter, Ruth Knispel, wrote to the Source and said: “Many know this family and certainly remember her growing up here and performing for the local  music festivals throughout the years.”
Baker played the saxophone and the piano at Kiwanis Lloydminster & District Music Festivals since she was five or six years old.
Today, she sponsors the Dr. Jan Berry Baker scholarship for senior woodwinds at the festival.
Her message to young musicians in Lloydminster is to become life-long appreciators of music.
“It’s really important to be involved in the music programs in the schools,” she said.
“In Lloyd, I know they have great programs and the Lloydminster music festival is such a huge asset to the community—it has really shaped the lives of so many people.”
Learning to play an instrument, she said, gives kids something positive to do with their time.
Baker plays all of the different saxophones and is sponsored by Selmer Paris as a performing artist.
As an in-demand soloist and chamber musician, Baker been on recent trips to Germany, France, Japan and Mexico and currently is an artist in residence at the Charlotte New Music Festival in North Carolina from June 10-18.
None of this would have happened had she not tried out a saxophone to learn music at Barr Colony.
“The first thing I liked about it was that I could actually get a sound out of it, whereas with the other instruments I couldn’t get a sound on,” she said with a laugh.
“That’s why I started playing it.”
She said her first band director,who was Brent Pierce, was such a motivational teacher.
“I just really feel in love with playing the instrument, so I starting taking private lessons with Barb Lorenz, who no longer lives in Lloyd, but influenced many saxophonists from Lloydminster over the years,” said Baker.
Baker said Lorenz was the sole reason that she became interested in it as a career.
She also gives credit to Eileen Yaxley, her piano teacher and accompanist from her early Lloydminster years.
Knispel was always one of Baker’ supporters in Lloydminster and also encouraged her along the way.
Most of all, Baker thanks her parents who travel often to see her perform at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.
“Growing up you can’t do it without parents,” said Baker.
She said her parents used to drive her out to Lorenz’s, farm which was almost an hour and-a-half out of town, for saxophone lessons and to babysit her young son while she had her lesson and take her home.
“They have always been extraordinarily supportive,” said Baker.
“I have the best parents in the world.”
Baker plans to make it back to Lloydminster at Christmas.

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