Community orchestra features ‘reborn flutist’

Christmas Concert at Chatelech 

Jonathan Baker may be remembered in Vancouver as a municipal politician and lawyer, but here he might be better known as the flutist for the Sunshine Coast Community Orchestra. 

Baker, who retired to the Coast with his wife Dominique in 2015, will be playing with the orchestra – as he has for a few years now – in its Christmas Concert at the Chatelech Secondary School Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 15. 

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As a promising young flute player in his native Atlantic City, New Jersey, Baker planned to be a full-time professional on the instrument. He was taken on as a student while still in high school in the mid-1950s by virtuoso U.S. flutist William Kincaid. “When I took lessons with Kincaid, I basically had to promise that I was going into music,” Baker said in an interview at his Sechelt home. “He only took students who were planning to make it a career.” 

While still a teenager, Baker became a member of the Atlantic City Symphony Orchestra and the Ice Capades Orchestra. But after his admission to prestigious Amherst College in Massachusetts, Baker also developed an interest in political science. When the Philadelphia Orchestra – with whom Baker’s teacher Kincaid was principal flutist – came to play at the school, Kincaid was surprised to see his young protégé there. “He said, ‘what the hell are you doing here,’’ Baker recalls. He told Kincaid of his newfound academic interests. “He was not terribly pleased with me,” said Baker, who soon put aside his dreams of a musical career. 

Baker went on to graduate with a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Vancouver in 1964. There he developed a long and successful law practice and served on city council from 1986 to 1990. But his flute was always close at hand. 

“From 1970 on, I’d pick it up occasionally,” Baker said. “But when I got up here, [my interest in playing] was basically reborn.” Which was a lucky turn for our musical community and for Baker, who is quick to point out that the orchestra has “really good musicians, and the conductors are excellent.” 

The Sunshine Coast Community Orchestra Association includes five different ensembles, all of which will be playing at the Dec. 15 concert. Baker plays regularly with two of them, the symphony orchestra and the band. 

The orchestra, under the baton of Jonathan Der, will perform the prelude from the opera Hansel and Gretel and the perennial favourite, Water Music by Handel. The band, led by Tak Maeda, will play A Mad Russian Christmas, popularized by the rock group Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Following that, will come waltz, march and jazz variations of Let it Snow, then Polar Express, from the popular animated movie, and a swing version of Jingle Bells. Performances by the Coast Chamber Strings and two young people’s ensembles will also be a part of the program. 

The concert begins at 2:30 p.m. Adults $20, accompanied children 12 and under are free. Tickets are available at Strait Music in Sechelt and at the door.

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