I was a postgraduate student of George Morey at the University of North Texas in
the late 70s and early 80s. During this time, I studied with Julius Baker for
five summers in his Dallas master classes and privately at his home in Brewster,
NY. Dr. Morey, Mr. Baker, and two of my other teachers Albert Tipton and Harold
Bennett were all classmates at the Curtis Institute under William Kincaid.
Imagine! I am so fortunate to have lived and learned during this historic era of
It's interesting how different teachers can be, even when they are from the same
school. Morey was analytical, almost scientific in his approach to technique.
Tipton was eloquent and keen on difference tones, pitch and improvisation.
Bennett taught etudes as if they were on a computer - you played them at tempo
with the metronome, constantly playing catch-up after the breaths. I studied
only solo repertoire with Baker, so the comparison is not the same, but he used
what I call the osmotic approach. He gave verbal guidance, of course, but mostly
he would play, then you would play, and through osmosis you usually got it.
I learned a lot just by standing next to him - studying his embouchure and
fingers, playing along with him, and listening. By observing his "cheeky"
relaxed embouchure, I understood his resonant vibrato, spinning sound and tone
colors. And while he played the most difficult passages with what seemed like
lazy, limpid exertion, I could see the cogs in his brain analyzing notes and
grabbing onto particular ones in fast passages so that everything was anchored
and secure. I can still see him standing there, head tilted to the right,
black-framed glasses sliding down his nose, flute drooping, carefully thinking
through things as he played with impeccable, easy accuracy.
It all seemed so easy. Mr. Baker knew the literature and with a simple
demonstration could say a thousand words, thus expediting the entire learning
process. The osmotic approach worked well for me. My playing was greatly
influenced by this great flutist, and I will always be thankful to have lived
during his lifetime and thus be a part of his prestigious legacy.
He always came to class in running shoes. One day someone played the last
movement of the Ibert Concerto (I hope memory serves me...). When the student
finished the last note, a high A, Mr. Baker accidentally squeaked his sneaker on
the tile floor and discovered it was a high F, like an F4. He picked up his
flute, nodded to Martha Rearick at the piano and played the ending himself. With
perfect intonation and dead-on timing, he substituted the last note of the piece
with an F4 from the floor. Now that's one up on all my other teachers!
Fare thee well, Mr. Baker, and thank you.