It was an evening to celebrate the life and talent of Midstate musician David Baker and to help others follow in his footsteps.
“David had talent, but also had the personality that came across the footlights to everybody,” said Fern-Marie Aames, co-chair of the annual David Baker Scholarship Concert-Bash.
Since his passing in 1997 at the age of 50, Baker’s legacy has become a scholarship trust fund to help college students afford their music education. To date, more than 138-thousand dollars has been awarded.
Andrew Vensel, music teacher at Middletown High School, was a four-time scholarship awardee.
“The scholarship money was extremely important to my education,” said Vensel. “It helped me live my dream of becoming a music educator.”
Performers during the four-hour benefit included current and previous scholarship recipients, as well as professional musicians who played along side David Baker.
David Yinger, now in his 12th year as band director at Boiling Springs High School, was one of the early scholarship recipients. He performed with his jazz quintet, then reminded the audience of the importance of the event to helping future musicians get the education and training they need.
“I probably would not have been able to pay for college without it,” said Yinger. “It was a significant amount of money at the time. It really helped defray the costs and make it an affordable proposition for me to be a music teacher.”
For some involved in the all-volunteer program, it was their way of staying in touch with the man so many loved and still miss. Fern-Marie Aames is one of them
“He was a unique individual. A great big teddy bear,” remembered Aames. “He was kind to everyone and just loved to make music and the people responded to that.”
“This is the type of activity and evening that he would have desired,” said Ron Turo, long-time friend of Baker’s and scholarship fund trustee. “This is exactly the way David would have done it.”
For many of Baker’s family, the annual tribute is a bitter-sweet event.
“All the music and laughter brings back a little piece of David that we all miss,” said his sister CeCe Viti. “And I guess that’s the most we can expect.”