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In Memory

Wesley Baker

Wesley Baker was born in Beaver, Utah on February 9, 1908. He was the last of eight children of Dorothy and Phillip Baker. He attended the University of Utah graduating in 1929 with a BA degree in Music. During his college years he spent his summers barnstorming with his orchestra in towns in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. He received his Master of Arts in music from Columbia University in New York City in 1935. During his stay in New York he met his wife, Adele Langenbahn, and was married in 1936. They had four children – Paul, Doris, John and Ann – all who completed their education in Montpelier schools.

Following his under graduate work in 1929, he took his first teaching job at Montpelier High School, where he remained for 35 years. In addition to teaching a full range of high school music classes, he taught elementary and junior high band. On nights and weekends, he gave private piano, vocal and instrumental lessons to students of all ages. Throughout his teaching career he was known to challenge his students, both individually and as groups, with difficult pieces of music. The skills and capabilities of his students were demonstrated time and again at the district, regional and state music competitions. A large number of his students carried on their music activities after leaving school.

His bands were known to play very challenging pieces, notwithstanding the suggestions of competition judges that he should choose a repertoire of lesser difficulty. He never changed his approach.

While his bands and piano students were greatly appreciated in the community and by others in his field, his greatest works came from his choirs. He directed freshmen women’s, women’s, men’s and mixed choirs. His philosophy was that anyone was welcome to sing in his choirs and would learn not only to carry a tune but also to read difficult pieces of music. His work with choral groups was renowned in music circles throughout the State of Idaho. What his students (and the community) most remembered were the annual Christmas cantatas. His choirs performed a wide variety of works – always including selections from Handel’s Messiah.

During his time in Montpelier, he served as a city council member for two years and then Mayor for two terms in the 1950’s.

While teaching, he was appointed by the Idaho Education Association to be part of a group to organize a health care organization for Idaho school instructors. The resulting Idaho Teachers’ Mutual Benefit Association was approved by the Idaho Insurance Commission in 1955. In 1960 he began a two-year term as president of the Idaho Music Education Association. He also served on the Idaho High School Interscholastic Activities Association for three years, 1960-63. He retired from teaching following the 1962-63 school year. He was immediately appointed as the Manager of the Idaho Teachers’ Mutual Benefit Association in that year and served until retirement in 1973. He spent his retirement years in Boise until his death in 1996.

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02/24/14 12:34 PM #1    

Larry Grimes (1958)

I have been fortunate to have been trained by two great music teachers in my life, Wes Baker and Glen Lockery,of the Unversity of Idaho.  Though not much of a musician myself, I nevertheless was exposed to great music, and can appreciate it, and that has been the greatest blessing of my life. Dr. Lynn Skinner, who has distinguished himself internationally in jazz, gives great credit to Mr. Baker for inspiring him as well.


02/25/14 07:57 AM #2    

Rosanna Combs (Andersen) (1959)

I loved to sit in the auditorium at lunch time and listen to Mr. Baker's band rehearse.  The challenges he gave us in chior as we learned the classics gave me me a great foundation for many future musical opportunities as a soloist, in musical theatre, singing with noteable choralle groups, and in international festivals.  Music became so important in my life, that I married a musician.  Noteably, the first time I saw my husband of now nearly 53 years, he was at the piano playing Barcarolle from the Tales of Hoffman, the first solo Mr. Baker assigned me.  A highlight in our lives was in 1996 when my husband and I sang at Carnegie Hall in NYC with the Colorado Master Choralle.  The love of music from my grandfather, through early training by Hazel Jacobsen and Wesley Baker has been a blessing to me and to our family.  Like ripples in a pond, you never know how far your influence goes.

Rosanna Andersen


02/25/14 10:09 AM #3    

Lynn Roderick (1964)

For the past several months I have been contacting classmates & inviting them to participate at the celebration this year.  Many of the classmates commented about Mr. Baker and how each of them were influenced by his love of music.  For many of us including myself the highlight of my high school years was performing the "Messiah" just prior to Christmas each year.  Mr. Baker had a positive influence on the lives of many students and his contribution and legacy will never be forgotten.  We proudly will add Mr. Baker's bio to our website. 

02/25/14 03:25 PM #4    

Richard Anthony (1960)

I have a reel to reel tape of the 1959 MHS Christmas Cantada.  I hope to have it available on a CD by reunion timethis summer.  If any one is interested in a CD.  Let me know on this site.  If anyone out there is talented in transferring this from a tape to a CD, let me know.  The tape does need some tweaking.  Rich Anthony

02/26/14 11:06 AM #5    

Larry Grimes (1958)

Richard, I may be able to help you with the transfer.  My son does stuff like that.  Let me know if you can get it done nearer by you.  Look forward to seeing you this summer.  Larry Grimes

04/22/14 10:46 PM #6    

Lynn Skinner (1958)

Wesley Baker gave me a opportunity to start in his band program late by Montpelier standards.  I had graduated from grade six in the Nounan Public Schools and asked my new 7th grade friend, Doris Baker, if I could get in the band. This was a life changing experience for me as I had to start with the 4th graders but I wanted to play so badly that I was pleased to be 5'9" with the 4th grade kids.  It lasted only one day because I went to school the day after my dad sold his best milk cow to buy me a King Super 20 Tenor Sax and I could play tunes and scales.  I was put in the Jr. High Band.  He never once gave up on me and gave me piano, vocal, band and life changing experiences that later gave the opportunity to play that very horn with the Lionel Hamtpon New York Big Band.

I met many of my life long friends in those music programs including Larry Grimes, Gary Miles, Doris Baker, Carol Miles, Marsha Meek and so many more.  

I also had the opportunity to call and tell him how much he meant to me and how I loved him before he passed away.

Thanks Wes!






04/23/14 08:21 AM #7    

Elease Williams (King) (1963)

         I just learned of the passing of our great music teacher, Mr. Baker.  I have been bragging about him for many years.  In reading his life summary I learned, also for the first time, that he left teaching at Montpelier after the 1962/63 school year.  After my mother's death and my father's remarriage, I had to change schools for just my senior year - 1962/63.  The Idaho superintendent came to our home to recruit the four children in our home to the Idaho school system (our ranch was on the Wyoming border and we could have attended Cokeville).  The decision was left to me.  When I was told that Montpelier had an outstanding music program, it made the choice easy.  I have always felt blessed to have been in Mr. Baker's choirs, exposed to such challenging music after my three previous years of clinic experience.  I was amazed that he brought at least one organ (?maybe two) into the auditorium for our Latin performance of The Messiah.  I was thrilled to hear the acoustics at the Tabernacle when he led our special groups in patriotic music with, of course, the organ and the piano at our graduation event.  My previous high school experiences had been wonderfully inclusive with a class of 16, but I appreciated these high levels of music performance, not to mention the wonderful boys and girls who included me in their friendship circles for just that one momentous year.  Now I have just learned that Mr. Baker left after that year!  I was very blessed to have been one of his students.  Thank you, Mr. Baker. 

Sincerely, Elease Williams King

04/24/14 10:02 AM #8    

Arlene Morris (Henley) (1949)

I was lucky enough to take private singing lessons from Mr. Baker.  He was a hard task master and really gave me difficult pieces to sing, but he helped me and encouraged me at all times. I sang in many groups that he put together and enjoyed being in every one of them.  He had a great sense of humor as well.  One year I think he had a great time having me, a LDS girl, sing Ave Marie at the Christmas program.  I must have done it really well; I had two Catholic churches ask me to sing it for them.  I enjoyed the music competitions that we were involved in where we competed and usually won against the larger schools in the area.  He had a great reputation for quality in music.

04/25/14 02:52 PM #9    

Karren Winters (Ashley) (1957)

The music background that Mr. Baker gave us who were members of the band, the choir and private students was truly remarkable.  He devoted so many hours in the evenings preparing us for the music festivals we participated in. Going to these various fesivals and participating in ensembles and the larger choid and band events was always exciting. More remarkable is the fact that he did this all without a music room.  The stage was his "room".  He didn't even have a blackboard, much less an office.  He always decorated the tabernacle for Graduation and the Chirstmas Cantata was one the year's highlights.  I remember there was always much speculation as to who got to the soloist for Ave Maria at Christmas time.  The rich background he gave us, his dedication to us, his persistence in putting up with us and giving us challenging music to sing and play is a legacy he left with the many lives he touched.  Karren Winters Ashley

06/26/14 03:00 PM #10    

Dorothy Grimes (Allsop) (1951)

Mr. Baker came into my 5th grade class at the Lincoln School and asked if I would like to play the drums in the band.  I was happy to oblige and played the bass drum and other percussion instruments throughout my school years in Montpelier.  He was a master teacher of music and we  his students should be eternally grateful to him for the wonderful assortment of music we were exposed to.  I was privileged to accompany the choirs and ensembles at music clinics and we always came out on top.  When I think of the difficult music we sang it amazes me.  The Last Words of David, Handel's Messiah, Hallelujah Chorus and other selections - when I hear them perforned, I think back to when we sang them in Montpelier, Idaho.  He was a first class citizen of our community and I will always cherish my memories spent working with him and studying with him at school. Dorothy Grimes Allsop

class of 1951


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