Used by permission from The Brass Herald – Issue 71, December 2017. For subscriptions visit www.thebrassherald.com.
In addition to this interview, Assistant Territorial Music Secretary Thomas Scheibner had a few more questions for BM Baker.
1) How were you contacted regarding the possibility of considering taking the job as Territorial Music Director of the USA Eastern Territory
I was asked to consider this post by Stanley Ditmer who was Program Secretary at the time.
2) Did the fact that you were the first non-officer serving in this
position present unique challenges to you? (Please elaborate)
Wow, I guess I forgot that was true. I felt something was different when I received a smaller bonsai tree than the officers at a
Christmas party, ha ha! Seriously though, I was generally made to feel welcome ‘on the building’ and enjoyed the support I felt of
leaders above me.
3) At that time, and to the present day, you have served as the Principal Trombone of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. How were
you able to manage both of these responsibilities at the same time during your time as Territorial Music Director?
There was a NJSO work stoppage approximately the length of my tenure as TMD. I was so happy and grateful that I could be used
in this unique way. In other words, this timing was a ‘God thing’.
4) You were responsible for hiring Peter Graham as the department’s Music Editor during your tenure as Territorial Music Director. What can
you remember about Peter’s contributions to the department and to Salvation Army music during this initial stage of his development as an
editor and composer?
Peter Graham was a near miss! I had arranged everything for Peter’s move to the Music Bureau (remember that designation?).
I got him cleared through the many hoops of US Immigration and he gave notice to his teaching job. Then the administration (at the
last minute, to my horror) reneged on the deal. I still don’t know why. Anyway, the second try worked and Peter moved in. Needless
to say, Peter’s understanding and flexibility was key. His reputation was just getting started as a composer and I believe this move was
just the right timing for him and our territorial music program (again, a ‘God thing’). His contribution was immeasurable. Peter Graham
went on to be the iconic composer he is today. By the way Tom, I think you came into the Music Bureau when I was there! I think I
had some pretty good sense.
5) You have always been a champion for corps music sections and commitment to local music forces. Can you tell us how this passion
was formulated into your DNA?
I grew up with officer parents who were hard-working corps officers. I think it started with them. My dad built up a 20-piece
boys band In Framingham, MA. When the family moved to New Jersey I came into contact with B/M Alfred Swenarton. He was
100% in his leadership of the Asbury Park Citadel Band & Songsters. Even during the busy schedule back then of the New
Jersey Youth Band of which he was the leader and DMD, he showed me time and again that the corps comes first. I was also
greatly affected by hearing the Tottenham Citadel Band in 1965 when they were featured at a Territorial Music Congress (we
don’t have those anymore). The impact of the band and their outstanding leader B/M James Williams opened my eyes to what
could happen at the corps level.
6) What would be current and future initiatives that you would like to see the present Territorial Music Department undertake in 2017 and