JMC Academy lecturer Stephen Baker has excitingly received a Medal of the Order (OAM) in this years Queen’s Birthday Honours for his service to music education, particularly to voice and performance.
Stephen is President of the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (NSW) and is recognized as one of Sydney's leading vocal coaches in contemporary music.
'This is a very important role for me as it gives me an opportunity to mentor young talented and dedicated singers and vocal coaches.'
His performing career spans more than 3 decades with over 120 live television appearances as a solo vocalist across all major networks, as well as working with many international acts. He has performed and taught across most contemporary genres, from Music Theatre to Rock, Jazz, Punk, R&B, Blues and A Capella.
'My first professional engagement as a singer was when I was six years old ...I sang solo on the Johnny O'Keefe show for channel seven ...this was such a huge deal for me at the time because I was paid 40 pounds and picked up in a limousine and taken into the recording studio where I recorded a Burt Bacharach song titled Saturday Sunshine and then I lip-synched it on the show which was common place back then.'
Stephen has appeared as a vocal soloist on The Don Lane Show, Mike Walsh Show, Bert Newton Show, Ray Martin Show, John Mangos Show and The Peter Couchman Show. Stephen has toured internationally with many U.S. artists including The Supremes, Jane Powell, Paul Williams, Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Frank Gorshinn, Tom T. Hall and Jimmy Rodgers.
'When I was 18 I was booked to be a part of a group called the young Australians, which was to perform at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973. I then studied dramatic art for three years and graduated in 1977. I then auditioned and won a 12 month contract to join the cast of the State Theatre Company of South Australia. During this period I got to work and learn from many of the greats in the industry. I then came back to Sydney and appeared in a lot of plays by Thomas Keneally and David Williamson and started singing professionally in my own cabaret show.'
Stephen has produced many large scale production shows for multi-national corporate functions and is a judge and convenor for many prestigious singing competitions. During the years of 2002, 2004, and 2005, Stephen was nominated and ultimately the winner of the Australian Achiever Awards (Excellence in Customer Service) for Sydney’s Music & Entertainment Services.
We caught up with him to see how he felt about winning!
Hey Stephen! How did you feel on hearing the news on winning the Medal of Order?!
I found out about three months ago when I received a letter in the post which looked very much like a parking fine infringement. To my surprise and delight when I opened the letter, it stated I was being considered for the Medal of the Order of Australia. It was strictly confidential so I couldn't tell anybody.
About three weeks ago I received a letter noting that I had been awarded the OAM.
It made me feel very proud and at the same time very humble that I could receive such an accolade for my life's work. It's been an incredible experience reconnecting with people who have congratulated me and told me unreservedly what an influence and impact I have had on their lives... That is really nice to hear!!
What drew you to teach, and why JMC Academy?
I actually started teaching singing by accident. One night I was working with another performer and she said "I'm having a problem with my voice I wish I could do so-and-so" and so I said "why don't you try this". She did, and I thought I like this, I like helping people.... And so it began.
Pretty soon after I started performing on television and that lasted 15 years and 121 appearances. I was teaching all the while and performing three or four nights a week. I then started working with The Daly Wilson Big Band and then both big bands when Warren Daly and Ed Wilson split up. For me teaching has always been a very important part of what I do and indeed in my own development.
When I joined the teaching staff at JMC Academy, I was the only vocal coach for a good number of years so I had a large say how the course was shaped, which, based on my own professional career, delivered real life experience and skills to the students...many of whom are still in contact with me today.
What are the benefits for students to study Music here?
All the lecturers and tutors here are performance-based. By that I mean they are all high achievers on the professional stage. I know as a teacher, I want to be taught by somebody who's already done it and it still doing it! I don't want to be told how to do it by somebody who has never had that experience...
That is the edge JMC has over it's competition. It also means that all the lecturers around the same page and that is vital so that the students are receiving a united message.
My favourite part is definitely giving feedback to the bands and trouble-shooting vocalists in the forum format when they perform in the auditorium.
Thank you Stephen. We are very proud to have you, and many other high achieving performers and musicians teaching here at JMC Academy.
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