Its first season was in 1963, making the Taos School of Music is the oldest summer chamber music program in the country and a Taos treasure.The late Chilton Anderson, one of the …
Its first season was in 1963, making the Taos School of Music is the oldest summer chamber music program in the country and a Taos treasure.
The late Chilton Anderson, one of the founders of the school, was its first director. His daughter, Kathleen Anderson, became the school's second director. Now, for the first time, the school's directorship passes to someone outside of the Anderson family. Tempo caught up with the new director Elizabeth Baker. She officially started work Oct. 1.
Tempo: What is your background?
Elizabeth Baker: I am a professionally trained violinist receiving degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University School of Music. Last September, I left a 40-year orchestral career where I was a member of the San Francisco Symphony for 10 years and then the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 30 years.
During that time my love of chamber music kept me active performing with my colleagues from both those orchestras as well as with two professional chamber music ensembles: Bach's Circle and XTet. I am still performing and appear in two chamber music series in New Mexico: Taos Chamber Music Group, and Montage Music Society. I also perform with Santa Fe Pro Musica and teach violin at the New Mexico School for the Arts.
Tempo: What was your former connection to Taos School of Music?
Baker: I attended the school in 1975 and 1976, two of the most amazing summers of my life. It is this experience that lay the groundwork for me and my husband's decision to return to Taos and reinvent ourselves. My husband, Toby, also has a connection to the school and attended concerts back in the 1970s when he was visiting his aunt Elsa Henschke.
As it turns out, he was in the audience attending a concert in which I was performing as a young artist, a fact we did not discover until we were dating seriously. We'd like to think that the Taos Mountain began drawing us in even back then.
Tempo: What is most exciting to you about stepping into this role?
Baker: Oh my. This is a good question. Perhaps it is that it feels as if I have come full circle.
Taos had such a deep impact on me during my formative years. Attending the school helped to prepare me for my music career.
In fact, nine months after attending the school I won my first audition with a major orchestra. Other exciting prospects: I am looking forward to serving the Taos community through this new position and am excited about the prospect of making a difference in the lives of the aspiring young artists who will come to the school and find out what happens to them as their careers develop. The accomplishments of our, now over 800, alumni are astonishing.
Tempo: What do you hope to accomplish in your position as executive director?
Baker: My primary focus is to maintain the traditions established by both Chilton and Kathleen. As the first nonfamily member to lead the school, this value is paramount to me. However, I would like to develop closer ties to the alumni and create opportunities for them to return either as performers or visitors. I would like to expand our donor base to ensure the future of the school.
It is a dream of mine that the Taos School of Music will become the most sought-after summer music program in the country. It already is the oldest summer chamber music program in the country, if not the world. I will continue efforts to expand the school's presence on the local, state, national and international levels. I plan to continue promoting our young artist concerts as their performances are spectacular. Speaking of those concerts, I would encourage anyone who might be skeptical about attending a "student" concert to take a chance and find out how amazingly talented our young artists are. It will be the best $10 you ever spent.
Tempo: Who is serving on the Taos School of Music board of directors?
Baker: Our board of directors are chair Lou Sturbois, vice-chair Jim Turner, treasurer Kathleen Anderson, secretary Judy Anderson and members Robert Burke, Ron Larimore, Jean Mayer, David Norden, Stephen Rose, Linda Stabler-Talty, Fred Winter and Joan Woodard. We meet about 4-6 times a year. We are in regular contact with one another throughout the year regarding issues of interest to the board. Since I am new, I will be meeting with our chair Lou Sturbois to get things started.
Tempo: What is on the horizon for Taos School of Music?
Baker: The board and I are already looking forward to our 60th year in 2022. We are thinking about adding some special events. I am excited that the Taos Ski Valley is evolving towards a year-round destination and that the school will be a part of that. As an example, this year, in partnership with The Blake, a yearly parent-alumni weekend was inaugurated. There are many other possibilities that await the school. I am excited to discover what lies ahead.
For more on the upcoming 2019 Taos School of Music season, visit taosschoolofmusic.com.
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