Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Renee' Baker: 'Progeny of Chicago Sinfonietta advances Dr. Paul Freeman's diversity challenge in Chicago Modern Orchestra Project'

Renee' Baker

Renee' Baker writes:

The odds of one symphony starting and thriving in Chicago with the message of diversity and excellence in music are EXTREMELY high.. How about a second orchestra, spawned with grooming gained from 26 years within the ranks of the Chicago Sinfonietta, namely Renee' Baker's Chicago Modern Orchestra Project..?

Functioning and thriving as one of the hottest new audience draws in Chicagoland. the orchestra, CMOP, we shall call it is sweeping through not just Chicago, but Music Director Renee' Baker is flinging the message as far as Berlin, London the Netherlands, and Los Angeles with new projects under the umbrella of CMOP. As Principal violist of the Chicago Sinfonietta, Ms. Baker had a front row seat, literally, to watch the magic made under Maestro Freeman. Dr.Freeman has been an important support mechanism for Ms. Baker as she developed in her Sinfonietta years into an internationally acclaimed instrumentalist, composer of note with commissions from ensembles worldwide, and embraced her mentor's profession of conducting with a furor matched only by Dr. Freeman's legendary podium episodes. 

Under the coaching and advice of noted conductors like Philip Baumann, Leslie Dunner, William Porter, John McLaughlin Williams, Anthony Parnther (and even a few kind moments from Maestro Mei-Ann Chen), Ms. Baker, formed and conducted the Chicago Sinfonietta Chamber Ensemble for 4 years and then took the leap to forming her own symphony orchestra. The Chicago Modern Orchestra Project was born, not only out of love and respect for the mission maintained by the Sinfonietta for it's first 22 years, but out of a continued need for the presence of visibility for minority musicians and audience members to embrace the art of music through all genres. 

Ms. Baker states, "I could not have had a better grooming ground for what was to come. Maestro Freeman encouraged all facets of my musical life and his support made me feel that I could do anything. During my very precious time with Sinfonietta, I have served as Education Director, Orchestra Personnel Manager and Contractor, Principal violist and my proudest moments were as co-founder of what has been branded now as Project Inclusion, with Dr. Paul Freeman. Our original program which was designed to kick open the door to help jumpstart the careers of promising minority musicians by extending a friendly hand.

Endeavoring to embrace  minority musicians and let them know that we valued them, they were not window dressing to procure funding and we were willing to invest time, money and energy in their development as well rounded musicians, and they could become valued part of the classical music landscape, hopefully not just in Chicago. As Co-founder of Project Inclusion, the model has accomplished more than I ever thought it could, so  from Chicago Chicago Modern Orchestra Project will reinforce and continue the same mission with the formation of two programs: ADEP (Assertive Diversity Enactment Program) for all people of color and PROJECT INDIGO, which will focus primarily on school-age African American children and their exposure to the world of music..."

It appears that Ms. Baker truly embodies the bold mission of diversity and is eager to carry forth Dr. Paul Freeman's  mission of "musical excellence through diversity". 

Chicago Modern Orchestra Project will produce it's 2013-14 concerts at South Shore Cultural Center and Dominican University, both venues in the Chicagoland area.

Comment by email:
Dear Bill, Thank you for posting "Progeny of The Chicago Sinfonietta" by Renee' Baker.  I, too, am re-printing in the September 28, 2013 issue of The Chicago Crusader. 

The true story must be told in order for the truth to be known.  Paul Freeman's dream of equality of opportunity for musicians of color and his legacy of diversity with integrity must be preserved, protected and expanded.  Kudos to Renee' Baker and The Chicago Modern Orchestra Project.  The dream continues.

Musically yours,
Barbara [Barbara Wright-Pryor]

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