Whitney Hale


College: Fine Arts

UK Composer Receives National ASCAP Award

Published: Nov 15, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 15, 2012)Joseph Baber, composer-in-residence at the University of Kentucky School of Music, is the recipient of an ASCAP Plus Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).


Baber was awarded the ASCAP Plus Award, which recognizes writer members of all genres whose works were performed in unsurveyed media as well as writer members whose catalogs have prestige value. To be considered for an ASCAP Plus Award, each writer must submit an online application annually that references achievements of the previous calendar year.


"The great thing about the ASCAP Plus Awards is that ASCAP, the great facilitator of musical commerce, acknowledges those musicians who work in areas outside of their normal survey. Those of us who work in the world of art music, or the university, or in opera, etc., far from Nashville, Hollywood, Broadway and Las Vegas, can feel neglected beside the tidal wave that is pop musical culture. It heartens us that we are remembered and highlighted each year," said Baber.


ASCAP Plus Award recipients are determined by a panel of distinguished music experts who review the recent activity for all that enter. Each applicant is considered on merit and in the context of all others applying for the award. The primary basis for panel determinations is the activity generated by each member's catalog, with emphasis on recent performances. These awards, made by ASCAP, reflect the continuing commitment to assist and encourage their composers. 


As an award winner, Baber will receive a cash prize, as well as invaluable recognition for his contributions to the music world.


Baber hopes this recognition will continue to advance the music environment at UK. "Anytime attention can be brought to bear on the university's steadying role in our commerce-driven culture, our mission is strengthened. I hope that my contribution can be of some benefit to UK in this mission, in return for all the support it has provided me these 41 years."


Born in 1937 in Richmond, Va., Baber began composing at an early age. He is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he worked with Gomer Jones and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and the Eastman School of Music, where his mentors were Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers and John LaMontaine. After a number of years in Japan as principal violist with the Tokyo Philharmonic, Baber returned to the U.S. and took a position for several years at Southern Illinois University. This was followed by a year as composer-in-residence for a Ford Foundation College Co-operative venture in Kansas, after which he assumed his present position as composer-in-residence at the UK School of Music in the UK College of Fine Arts.


Although he has written in all the major genres, Baber is perhaps best known for his collaborations with novelist John Gardner on three operas, "Frankenstein," "Rumpelstiltskin" and "Samson and the Witch." "Rumpelstiltskin" was first presented in Lexington as part of the opening season of the newly restored Lexington Opera House in 1977, and "Samson and the Witch" also was first performed in Lexington by the Opera Company of Central Kentucky in May 1995. After its professional premiere by the Philadelphia Opera Company in 1978, "Rumpelstiltskin" went on to be the subject of a three-hour National Public Radio broadcast special.


In addition to operas and songs, Baber has a sizable body of orchestral music, including overtures, suites, two symphonies, several marches and two tone poems. He has also written works for solo instruments with orchestra, as well as keyboard, chamber and choral music. An award-winning member of ASCAP since 1971, Baber has received a number of national prizes and commissions. Of his many local commissions, two of the most noteworthy have come from Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Georgetown, one for its grand opening in 1988 and one for the Kentucky All-State Honors High School Touring Orchestra, which the corporation sponsored. In 1999, Baber completed a large work for chorus and orchestra on commission from the Lexington Singers titled An American Requiem Op. 80, based on Civil War diaries and poems.


Compositions by Baber, who was for many years principal viola of the Lexington Philharmonic, have been frequently performed by that orchestra and the composer has received several commissions from them. A 2006 appearance by the orchestra on KET's "In Performance at the Governor’s Mansion" featured Baber’s works, including "Heartland: September Towns," a piece written for conductor George Zack’s 25th anniversary with the Lexington Philharmonic.


In October 2009, Baber wrote the score for "River of Time," a new American folk opera about Lincoln's early years in Kentucky first performed in Lexington by UK Opera Theatre at the Lexington Opera House. Earlier that same year, Baber presented highlights from "River of Time" at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Kentucky Humanities Council and UK Opera Theatre’s "Our Lincoln" production.


For more information about ASCAP or their various awards, visit their website at www.ascap.com/




MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, (859) 257-8716 or whitney.hale@uky.edu

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