Obituary: Conductor Robert Hart Baker Dies at 69

By Francisco Salazar

On Nov. 25, 2023, conductor Robert Hart Baker died at the age of 69.

Born on March 19, 1954, the conductor went on to study at the Manhattan School of Music for preparatory division, the Academie Internationale d’ete,  the Mozarteum Conservatory in Salzburg, Horace Mann School, Harvard University, Yale University, and York College of Pennsylvania He was a student of Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, James Yannatos, Arthur Weisberg, Henry Bloch, Johannes Somary, and Otto-Werner Mueller.

He went on to first conduct at the Radio City Music Hall and for the Spoleto U.S.A. before appearing at Carnegie Hall.

In 1977, Baker won a Composition Award from the National Federation of Music Clubs, and ASCAP contemporary music programming awards with the New York Youth Symphony.

In 1987, he became the music director and conductor of the Cullowhee Music Festival where he remained until 1989 . The conductor also went on to work with the Festival dei Due Mondi and Spoleto Festival USA as an assistant conductor.

One of his most important affiliations was the St. Louis Philharmonic where he became the music director in 1982. He went on to serve as the Music Director for 38 years and won the 2004 Telly Award for best classical local cable TV production.

Baker also held positions with the Belleville Philharmonic, The Asheville Lyric Opera as Principal Guest Conductor, and The Asheville Symphony Orchestra. He would also hold positions with the Harrisburg Choral Society, The York Symphony Orchestra and chorus, The Putnam Symphony Orchestra, The Danbury Little Symphony, The Connecticut Philharmonic Orchestra, Bach Society Orchestra of Harvard University, The Bicentennial Festival Orchestra, and The Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra as principal oboe.

Outside of his conducting assignments, he was a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, Mars Hill College, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and the State University of New York.

In a statement, the St. Louis Philharmonic noted, “It is with profound sadness that we bid farewell to our dear Dr. Robert Hart Baker, Conductor Laureate. He has made his final exit and we extend our deepest sympathy to his family. Dr. Baker served as our maestro for 38 years continually bringing his devotion, passion, talents and artistic direction to our orchestra and our performances. While we mourn the loss of our friend and conductor, we remember and celebrate the amazing years of brilliant music he created with us and the impact he made on the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra and musical community.”