I’m a Ph.D. student and Sproull Fellow in music theory at the Eastman School of Music. My research focuses primarily on improvisation, including the development and modeling of improvisational fluency, the role of improvisation in jazz and popular music, and related issues of embodiment and flow. I also study mathematical models of musical spaces.

I’m a dynamic and skilled teacher – after my first year teaching in the undergraduate theory curriculum, I was awarded Eastman’s Teaching Assistant Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. I also serve on the board of the Music Theory Society of New York State, and the editorial staff of Intégral.

Prior to coming to Eastman, I worked for five years as a versatile freelance pianist in New York City, where I served as an adjunct music director and vocal coach at NYU, accompanied festival choruses at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, performed in numerous professional jazz and pop groups, and maintained a private piano studio. I remain active as a pianist, both in NYC and in Rochester.

Outside of music, I enjoy running and following politics. I also recently completed a four-year term as the New York City Representative on the St. Olaf College Alumni Board.


  • Ph.D., Music Theory, Eastman School of Music (anticipated completion 2020)

  • M.M. Jazz Piano Performance, New York University (2011)

  • B.A., Music and Mathematics, St. Olaf College (2009)

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

  • “Standard Practices: Intertextuality and Improvisation in Jazz Performances of Recent Popular Music” (SMT 2018, MTSMA 2018)

  • “Quality Control: Recontextualizing Harmonic Quality Analysis Using the Discrete Fourier Transform” (MTMW 2018)


  • Society for Music Theory

  • Music Theory Society of New York State (Member-At-Large, 2017-19)

  • Music Theory Midwest

  • Pi Kappa Lambda

  • Phi Beta Kappa

Ben Baker

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