James Baker is Principal Percussionist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, Music Director of the Composers Conference at Wellesley College, Director of the Percussion Ensemble at the Mannes College of Music, and Principal Conductor of the Talea Ensemble. He has led the Orchestra of the League of Composers, Speculum Musicae, Ensemble ACJW, Cygnus Ensemble, Tactus, Ensemble 21, and the DaCapo Chamber players among many others. He has conducted at the Darmstadt, Wien Moderne, Warsaw Autumn, June in Buffalo, and Beijing Modern festivals, and the Bang on a Can Marathon and Monday Night Concerts in Los Angeles. He has conducted a number of Composers Portrait concerts at Miller Theater, including those of Pierre Boulez (where he led the US premier of Derive II), Toru Takemitsu, Jason Eckardt, John Zorn, and Chou Wen-chung. He has premiered music by many of the great composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Boulez, Cage, Carter, Messiaen, Dillon, Harvey, Wourinen, Davidovsky, Glass, Aperghis, Davidovsky, Ferneyhough, Reynolds, Henze, Crumb, Babbitt, Neuwirth, Furrer and many, many others, often working closely with the composers. Mr. Baker was for many years a conductor of Broadway shows, conducting The King and I, The Sound of Music, The Music Man, Oklahoma, An Inspector Calls and La Boheme among others.
An active composer of electro-acoustic music, Mr. Baker won a Bessie award for composition for dance, and has written a number of pieces for long-time collaborator, choreographer Tere O’Connor. Recent commissions include the Opera Ballet de Lyon, BAM Next Wave and the Dublin Dance Festival.