James Baker

Producer, Host: Classics a la Carte

James first introduced himself to KPAC listeners at midnight on April 8, 1993, presenting Dvorak's 7th Symphony played by the Cleveland Orchestra. Soon after, he became the regular overnight announcer on KPAC.

If pressed to describe himself, James will say he is a musician who hosted classical music.  For over 40 years, he has worked as a professional French horn player, holding posts in the Austin Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico, Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico, and Orquesta Sinfonica de Xalapa, the oldest orchestra in Mexico. 

James also is an avid marathoner.  Look for him running the streets of San Antonio with his three rescued border collies.

Ways to Connect

On this week's "Art of American Popular Song" we seek new songs to add to the venerable Great American Songbook. We also look to put to rest the belief by some that the craft of great song and lyric writing died somewhere around 1955. After all, that's what the American composer, writer, and commentator on popular song, Alec Wilder, said in his book "American Popular Song: The Great Innovators." But is it really so?

 

Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin / McNay Art Museum

KPAC's "The Art of American Popular Song" approaches the end of the line (for the series, not popular song!) with this celebration of great craftsmen. Vernon Duke, Arthur Schwartz, Harry Warren, Kay Swift, Hoagy Carmichael, Vincent Youmans, and Kurt Weill are featured alongside Hugh Martin, who at the time of the original production was the only of the songwriting legends of the first half of the twentieth century still alive.

Sam Arlen

The KPAC series of more than a decade ago, "The Art of American Popular Song," followed a blueprint laid out by the composer and writer Alec Wilder.

Biography.com

Unlike Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen, who wrote their songs with numerous collaborative lyricists, and not at all like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, who preferred doing it all themselves, writing both the music and the words, Richard Rodgers was most comfortable, and most successful, when in partnership with another. Over the course of his long and storied career in musical theater and beyond, Rodgers enjoyed two important partnerships.

American musical theater is not all fluff with no bite. In fact, the 1930s saw a maturity coming to the genre. George Gershwin and George Kaufman brought biting satire to the musical stage with "Of Thee I Sing." This, in turn, opened the gates for other socially informed shows, such as Harold Rome's "Pins and Needles," a show produced off and on Broadway by members of The Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

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