Julie at 3
Some may be surprised to know that this versatile songstress was born and raised on a farm in the sand hills of central Nebraska. She sang for her first talent contest at the age of 5 during a 4th of July celebration in the tiny town of Ericson, Nebraska. The small community where she was raised (with only a population of 104) did not offer a lot of performance opportunities for a young girl who dreamed of being on a big stage. However, she grew up singing and learning her craft wherever she could. While listening to her older sister take voice lessons, she learned to imitate the techniques of a classical singer and soon learned that she had the ability to sing in a variety of styles and genres. Born into a musical family (on both sides) it was evident that Julie had inherited musical gifts that could not be denied.
Due to limited access to the arts, church, the school music program and the local bar and grill is where Julie began developing and practicing her skills as a performer. There weren’t many options to experience live music, so Julie’s parents allowed her to go hear the bands that played at the local bar and grill on Sunday nights until 10 p.m. Her parents realized it was a bit late for her to be out on a school night. However, they knew their daughter had a love for music and performing, so took advantage of what was available to expose her to the world of live music. Every Sunday night she would beg the musicians to let her sing. Some musicians were reluctant to let a “kid” sit in with them, but once she opened her mouth, a second and sometimes a third song would emerge. Jack Munn, a drummer in one of those bands became a mentor of sorts and promised Julie that when she got a little older, she could be in his band someday. A few years later, Jack Munn kept his promise and when Julie turned 15, she joined her first real band “Cactus Jack and the Sneak Attack.” While only a sophomore in high school, many times she would play a high school volleyball game, get in the car with her volleyball uniform still on and along with her parents would travel down the road to make it in time for a gig at a bar and grill or event in some small Nebraska town. Her time with her first band only lasted a year, but at a young age she learned about the world of being a musician in a band and everything that comes along with it.
When Julie was a Junior in high school, she was accepted into a high school specifically for students gifted in the arts in Champaign, Illinois called THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ARTS. Her sister had attended the school in prior years until it had closed due to problems with funding. Julie had longed to go to the same school her sister had attended, but thought her chance was over once the school closed. However, the school re-opened and she was able to attend to further her musical education beyond the local small town gigs. Attending the Academy gave Julie the opportunity to get more extensive training in the areas of music theory as well as instruction singing classical music in German, Italian and French languages. Although Julie only was able to spend one year at the fine arts high school (due to it closing again), the training she received would prepare her for her next step in her musical journey--college.
Julie in High School
Julie was awarded a music scholarship to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She originally was a music theatre major and later changed her major to music education. She was a part of the prestigious SCARLET & CREAM SINGERS, a group of college students who represented the University and traveled and performed throughout the state and beyond. Julie’s director (Ray Miller) recognized Julie’s immense talent and suggested her for a role in a documentary about Nebraska author Willa Cather. The documentary was featured on Nebraska Public Television and Julie played the character of Thea Kronborg from Cather’s book “Song of the Lark.” That experience gave Julie the chance to learn how film and editing worked which was another layer to Julie’s performance experience. Throughout college, Julie continued to perform and sing for special events. Julie ended her college career with one last performance as the lead in the opera "THE OLD MAID AND THE THIEF." She then departed the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelors degree in Music Education with a vocal emphasis.
Julie the Educator
Julie’s career as a music teacher afforded her the opportunity to use her gifts as an educator. She built music programs where her students were awarded some of music education’s highest honors in the areas choir and show choir. Her skills not only as a vocalist but also as a director went above and beyond as she directed several full blown musical productions and wore the hats of director, producer, set designer, choreographer, adjudicator and clinician. The pinnacle of her career was being awarded the Nebraska Educators Association “Education in Excellence” Award for a CD of original songs she produced with her students in North Omaha. That award afforded Julie the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. where she was honored with other award winning educators throughout the United States.
Julie’s gifts and talent as vocalist, educator, director, performer and choreographer have brought her to the place where she is today. Her life has come full circle as she once again is focusing on her love of performing…..just as she did where it all began back in the small town of Ericson, Nebraska. She now sings and performs in local venues throughout Omaha and the surrounding area. You will also may hear her singing THE NATIONAL ANTHEM at sporting events at her alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her voice also graces the official Video of Nebraska's state song "Beautiful Nebraska."
LIFE and MUSIC
Julie believes that life and music are synonymous with each other. Every situation in life has a song and through music we can all feel connected. When Julie sings, she brings her life experiences with her and connects with her audience in a real and authentic way, which is unique and rare. She doesn’t merely sing a song to her audience, but instead invites them to “experience” that song through her own personal encounters and stories. There are many who can sing, but few take their audience through a musical journey in a way that is as personal, authentic as Julie Baker. As saxophone player Matt Wallace once said….”she is the real deal.”
Interview with Julie