September 23, 2023
Congratulations go out to Dr. William O. Baker, creator of the Choral Foundation and music director of the William Baker Festival Singers, Kansas City Bronze and the Summer Singers of Kansas City, who has been named 2nd Prize National Winner of the 2023 Dale Warland Award in Choral Conducting.
Dr. Baker responded to the news, saying, “I am humbled by this announcement, especially for a prize named in honor of Dr. Dale Warland, one of the great choral leaders of our generation. It is my privilege to, in small part, continue the legacy of beautiful choral music his long career has served so nobly.” Dr. Baker also expressed appreciation to the music staff, Board of Trustees, and generous supporters of the Choral Foundation and its many performing ensembles and educational institutions for their industry, professionalism and encouragement. The Choral Foundation is the parent organization of the Summer Singers of Lee’s Summit, created in 2014.
The 1st Prize National Winner of the 2023 Dale Warland Award is Richard Sparks, director of the San Francisco-based Benedict XVI Singers. The 3rd Prize National Winner is Dr. Alyssa J. Cossey, for her work with the University Community Chorus in Tucson, Arizona.
Dr. Baker was appointed Music Director of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lee’s Summit in 2020, and has led a dramatic growth of the congregation’s music program. He has conducted three performances of Handel’s Messiah at the Church, along with masterworks by Johann Sebastian Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude, Tomas Luis de Victoria, and many others. The versatile St. Paul’s Choir has also led a celebration of early American works, a Black Gospel program, and a classic 19th century CampMeeting.
Dr. William Baker’s career began at the age of 18 on his appointment as Music Director of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in suburban Atlanta, and his 1978 creation of The DeKalb Choral Guild, an organization that continues today as Harmonia Atlanta. His first Festival Singers chorus was created as Gwinnett Festival Singers in 1985 and was known for decades as William Baker Festival Singers/Atlanta. The William Baker Festival Singers in Kansas City, created in 1998, has become one of the region’s most significant choral ensembles with numerous recordings, national broadcasts performances, and tour concerts in 14 states and the District of Columbia, including the Washington National Cathedral, the Basilica of the National Shrine, Trinity Wall Street Church in New York City, and many others. He has served significant church music positions over a 45 year career in ministry, and he is the author of two devotional books. The William Baker Choral Foundation, based in Kansas City and active in Chicago and Atlanta, has created over a dozen performing ensembles, two internationally focused educational institutions, the Jane Sullivan Choral Resource Library, and the Choral Conversations Podcast.
The Atlanta native holds the Doctor of Musical Arts from the American Conservatory of Music, following study at Mercer University and the University of Georgia. His accomplishments have been recognized in his home states by two Georgia Governors, Joe Frank Harris and Sonny Perdue, by Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer, by US Congressman Phil Gingrey, by official recognitions from the City of Kansas City, Missouri, the City of Roeland Park Kansas, and the County Commission of Johnson County, Kansas, along with a 2015 proclamation by the Georgia House of Representatives. He was honored for service to the Atlanta region in 2012 by the Pro-Mozart Society of Atlanta, and by being named Conductor Emeritus of The DeKalb Choral Guild in 2015. In 2023 he was named a National Arts Associate by Sigma Alpha Iota.