Buddy Baker's name may not elicit instant recognition, but anyone familiar with Disney's films, TV series and theme parks is familiar with his music--the musical director for about 200 of the studio's productions for the big and small screen, he also composed incidental music for Disneyland attractions like "It's a Small World." Norman Dale Baker was born January 4, 1918 in Springfield, IL, learning to read music before he could read standard text. At age four he studied piano and at 11 adopted the trumpet, forming his own group in high school in addition to performing with his Boy Scout troop band. Baker then studied music at Southwest Baptist University, even creating his own system of harmony. In 1938 Baker relocated to Hollywood, and became so sought-after as an arranger that he abandoned his own performing career, working with big band stars including Harry James, Stan Kenton, Jack Teagarden and Bob Crosby. He also penned arrangements for radio programs including "The Bob Hope Show," "The Jack Benny Show," "The Eddie Cantor Show," "Kay Kyser's "Kollege of Musical Knowledge" and Robert Armbruster's "Standard Symphony Hour." During the 1940s, Baker also taught arranging and conducting at Los Angeles City College; in his first class was Jerry Goldsmith, who would later enjoy a successful Hollywood music career of his own. In 1954, Baker was contacted by another former student, George Bruns, who'd accepted a job with Walt Disney Studios. Facing an enormous workload, Bruns asked his former teacher to assist him on the TV series Davy Crockett; Baker would remain with the studio for close to three decades. He was soon named musical director of a new series called The Mickey Mouse Club--the show was produced five days a week for four years, and Baker was required to write and teach his group new material on an almost daily basis. He made his first foray into scoring live action feature films with 1960's Toby Tyler, going on to score over 50 features in all--in 1972, he earned an Academy Award nomination for his work on Napoleon and Samantha. Baker additionally scored over 150 Disney television features, as well as the "Disney on Parade" arena show. As the chief composer and musical director of Disney's design branch WED Enterprises, he further authored much of the incidental music for Disneyland, Disney World and Epcot Center. In 1995, Baker was the recipient of the National Fantasy Fan Club's "Disney Legend Award," and four years later was honored with the ASCAP Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award. He died of natural causes at his Sherman Oaks, CA home on July 26, 2002 at the age of 84.
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