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Meet Jalen Baker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jalen Baker.

Jalen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a Jazz Vibraphonist and composer. I was born in Washington D.C. but grew up in 3rd Ward, Houston, TX. I began playing percussion around the age of nine at MacGregor Elementary and later began taking private lessons with Sam Dinkins III at the Dinky School of Music. I would later attend Johnston Middle School and The High School for Performing and Visual Arts as a classical percussionist but after meeting and working with Jazz Vibraphonist Chase Jordan during my senior year, I decided to concentrate on Jazz Vibraphone. I’m also a Summer Jazz Workshop alum. From HSPVA, I would go on to attend Columbia College Chicago where I earned a Bachelors Degree in Jazz Studies and Florida State University where I also completed a Master’s Degree program in Jazz Studies. Today, I have recently moved back to Houston but I’m actively playing in and outside the state.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I wouldn’t say it’s been smooth or particularly rough. There were definitely patches of both! I think it’s been exactly what it is supposed to be for me. Every challenge I have had just prepared me for the next thing that comes my way. Being a Vibraphonist presents some unique challenges such as even having an instrument to play and then getting that instrument to and from gigs. When I lived in Chicago, of course, I had no car so I had to put my huge instrument in Ubers for transport, which was expensive made it hard to make money on gigs. There were other things most college students go through as well such as homesickness, anxiety, even a little depression at times. I found my footing fairly quickly so I wouldn’t say anything has been very hard nor very easy but I have had to get very creative with my approach to building a career as a musician. I’m very happy with where I’m at

Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am a freelance musician and composer and have been able to tour around the country and travel to other countries such as Italy and China. I would say my most proud moment was being able to tour with one of my musical idols and mentors, Ulysses Owens Jr. I specialize in Jazz but frankly, I play different styles within the Jazz genre as well as some more contemporary styles. I’m still building my brand and my reputation as a musician and composer. Not every musician composes their own tunes. I’ve had some success with that. I was not the guy to have early acclaim like winning prestigious awards, going to the prestigious music camps or even going to a music conservatory. However, these things have not stopped my successes and this is what sets me apart.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have paid more attention to my music classes in high school. A lot of the things I had to do musically in college might have been easier had I been more attentive in high school.

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Image Credit:
Natalie Hords, Carlos James

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1 Comment

  1. Gerri Seay

    September 22, 2019 at 6:49 am

    We love Jalen Baker and we loved his performances at B Sharps Jazz Society In Tallahassee! Wish I could share a sniper here of his performance, , but alas I can’t post it. Be sure, Houston, to catch a performance if -when- he plays at a spot near you- Dave and Buster. Cezanne’s.
    Shout out to his Uncle: Houston’s Own ,Jason Hainsworth

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