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Musicologist, a ‘Dynamo of Energy,’ Is Outstanding Lecturer

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Calling her “a dynamo of energy,” John Koegel raved about the love and appreciation students, faculty and staff have for Nicole Baker, recipient of the year’s Outstanding Lecturer Award.

“She has made a deep impact on our students’ understanding of how music functions, its history, what it represents in society, and how our students can apply this knowledge to their own experiences as performing musicians, music educators and music scholars,” said the professor of music.

Indeed, at the May 10 Academic Senate meeting where she was honored, Cal State Fullerton President Fram Virjee shared comments from some of Baker’s students. Among them: “She is one of the hardest teachers I’ve ever had. However, she knows her stuff, grades fairly and makes learning fun. Hear teaching techniques have made me really consider music history for my graduate degree.”

Another favorite: “If I walk into class tired or sad, I walk out with a pep in my step.”

Since her arrival at Cal State Fullerton in 1997, the lecturer has taught 13 different music history classes, as well as performance-related courses such as applied and individual vocal instruction — strong evidence, explains Koegel, of her impressive subject knowledge and excellent teaching abilities. She sang with the Los Angeles Master Chorale for 26 seasons and conducts her own professional-level vocal ensemble, Jouyssance.

Baker has worked regularly in major Hollywood studios as a singer, and as an experienced musicologist, adds Koegel, she discovered important new aspects of Mozart’s operas. Indeed, she has published many peer-reviewed articles on her research, as well as a scholarly music edition of 18th-century theatrical music.

Dale Merrill, dean of the College of the Arts, commented on her “great interest in serving prospective and current students, her teaching excellence, and the wonderful contributions she brings to the School of Music.” As prospective undergraduate student coordinator for the School of Music, Baker helps prospective students with application procedures, auditions, scholarships and enrollment; coordinates auditions for music applicants and “Shadow Day” recruiting efforts, when prospective students receive one-on-one instruction on campus; and leads prospective student-parent orientation meetings.

Also supporting Koegel’s nomination was Larry Timm, director of the School of Music, who singled out Baker’s “… dedication over 20 years of teaching at Cal State Fullerton to our diverse students’ intellectual, artistic, and personal needs and success, and her very high level of service to our students and School of Music, which is often beyond the requirements of her position.

“She is an enthusiastic, warm and caring person, who gives high priority to student interests,” he added.

Baker conducts Cal State Fullerton’s historical music performance ensemble, Collegium Musicum. She also serves as adviser to the campus student chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon, the professional, coeducational music service fraternity, and was honored recently with the Mu Phi Epsilon Faculty Advisor of the Year award, a national recognition.

“She brings her experience as a published musicologist to her teaching, especially in our music research and music history courses, challenging our students to become dedicated writers and scholars of music,” explained Professor of Music Pamela Madsen, her colleague for nearly 20 years. “Nicole teaches through active engagement, bringing her lively and colorful professional life experience as a musician into the classroom to engage students intensely in the subject matter at hand.”

“She is an incredible colleague and educator, regularly exceeding her contracted duties to help students with disabilities and learning challenges,” confirmed Professor of Music Robert Istad. “In the classroom, she is an utter joy! She communicates subject matter with passion and humor, and inspires our students to approach their study of history and writing with intensity and excellence.”

The lecturer holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wellesley College, as well as a master of fine art in vocal performance and doctorate in musicology from UCLA. Prior to her arrival at CSUF, she held teaching positions at Cal State Northridge, UCLA and the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.