James Baker

Contributing Writer

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.  He has held the Principal Horn position in the Mid Texas Symphony for the past 20 years.

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

James was the long-time host of Itinerarios, a weekly program of music with Latin-American roots, Listener's Choice, KPAC's request show, and for over 10 years co-hosted with Ron Moore Alternate Routes, KPAC's program of contemporary music.

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Books News & Features
8:49 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Barry Lopez: American Literary Icon

Barry Lopez
Credit David Liittschwager/Barry Lopez

"There is a way in which the arts serve humanity and are not just entertainment. That seems to be the drift at the moment, that the arts are there to entertain us, but that's not why human beings became dedicated artists. Even if they were driven by individual artistic vision, there's a social impulse behind the desire to create art." Barry Lopez

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Classical Music
4:03 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

New Year, New Discoveries From South America

As is so often the case, discoveries are made by the back way. I was browsing today the upcoming 2014 programming of the Orquesta Filarmonica de Buenos Aires, conducted by my old acquaintance Enrique Arturo Diemecke. I saw many familiar composers, but a sprinkling of unknown, mostly Latin American composers as well. Esteban Benzecry, an Argentine musician, was among them. It was a new name to me, and new music--they're playing his Violin Concerto in Buenos Aires.

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Classical Music
11:31 am
Sun December 15, 2013

Mexican Classical Music: From The Known To The Unknown

La Orquesta Filarmonica de la UNAM, one of 5 full time professional orchestras in the greater Mexico City area.
Dirección General de Música, UNAM Wikimedia Commons

If there's one thing to be learned about classical music from Latin America, it's that there's much more there than one might imagine, especially if we only know of that proverbial tip of the iceberg, the scant amount of Latin American music which has trickled into American, European and Asian concert halls. When I first began producing my weekly radio program, “Itinerarios,” I began casting the net further and further into Latin America, hoping to keep new materials flowing in as fuel for the show.

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Arts & Culture
10:13 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Latin Grammys More Diverse Than Ever In 2013

Guitarist, composer, arranger Mario Adnet.
Credit Milton Montenegro

[This post has been edited from when it first went online to reflect some of the winners in this year's categories.]

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Arts & Culture
1:58 am
Sat November 9, 2013

Go in Peace: Rick Hunter

Rick Hunter, on the island of Janitzio, Mexico
Credit Rick Hunter Photography

It was with the heaviest heart that I read the news, spreading like a wild fire, of the death of the extraordinary photographer Rick Hunter. He was one of my favorite people on Facebook and a constant inspiration as I tried, and tried again, to train my camera to see as he saw. My eye will never be as keen as his, yet I will continue to strive to capture the world around me as he always did, so skillfully.

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KPAC Blog
5:01 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Why Verdi?

Giuseppe Verdi
Wikimedia Commons

My first exposure to the music of Guiseppe Verdi came in high school. Fred Junkin, the director of the Victoria High School Band, chose Verdi's "Overture to La Forza del Destino" for one of our contest pieces. The drama of the piece stuck with me, such that as a professional musician and devoted listener to classical music, my heart still responds to Verdi's restless score.

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Arts & Culture
9:24 pm
Sun September 22, 2013

Coming Soon: Mexican-American Soprano Barbara Padilla

Barbara Padilla at Abbey Road.
Dan Massie

Promotion can be deceptive; we've all been duped into expecting the latest and greatest this or that, only to be profoundly disappointed, maybe even out some bucks for the CD or online download. That said, and yes it can be regarded a disclaimer, I want to share what looks like the real deal, waiting in the wings, with only the details of the release date still to be determined. Line up behind me for this anticipated new release.

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Classical Music
4:13 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

First Listen: Isaac Karabtchevsky Conducts Villa-Lobos

Isaac Karabtchevsky
Wikimedia Commons

The year was 1982, I believe, when I first encountered the Brazilian conductor Isaac Karabtchevsky. He had come to guest conduct the Orquesta Filarmonica de la Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City Philharmonic), of which I was a member. I have fond memories of the experience, especially the opening number of the concert, the “Overture to Der Freischutz” by Carl Maria von Weber. The orchestra loved playing for him and gave him terrific performances. I recall going out afterward with a group of musicians and Maestro Karabtchevsky, for drinks.

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Classical Music
5:46 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Maria Teresa Rodriguez (1923-2013): Champion of Carlos Chavez

Maria Teresa Rodriguez, (1923-2013)
INBA

Speak of the Mexican pianist Maria Teresa Rodriguez and the topic quickly turns to her recordings of the solo piano music of Carlos Chavez. However, many will advise a more thorough exploration of her work, for she was said to have had a repertoire which included more than 400 pieces, including Maurice Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin."

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Arts & Culture
4:40 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Marian McPartland, 1918-2013: The End Of An Era

Marian McPartland playing "The Great American Songbook" for young listeners
Wikimedia Commons

It's a sign of the inevitable passage of time that we find ourselves weekly, even daily, bidding farewell to our few remaining links to that great gesture of American music which we know fondly as "The Great American Songbook." One such link, one of the last, passed away on Tuesday night, August 20th. Sadly, we must say our farewells to Marian McPartland.

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