Brian Baxter (b.1985) is a Chicago-based musician and orchestra manager who composes music inspired by family, place, and poetry. Lawrence A. Johnson of The Classical Review has described Brian’s music as “smartly scored and makes effective impact with economy of means.” He writes primarily chamber, orchestral, and vocal music.
Brian has released two albums including Roots Run Deep featuring the Chicago Q Ensemble with Angela Tomasino in 2016 and Book of Drum featuring himself on drums in 2014. For both projects he received Individual Artist Program Grant Awards from the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. Brian’s music has also been recorded by Access Contemporary Music’s Palomar Ensemble on its Ten x Ten collaborative arts vinyl release (November, 2013) and by Gaudete Brass Quintet on their debut release with Cedille Records, Chicago Moves (November, 2012). His chamber and vocal music have been performed by the Anaphora Ensemble, Leila Bowie, Chicago Q Ensemble, Forecast Music, Fulcrum Point New Music Project, Gaudete Brass, Gillespie Quartet, Caitlin McKechney, neoPhonia New Music Ensemble, Palomar Ensemble, Phoenix Concerts, Singers On New Ground and many others. His large ensemble works have received performances by the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestras, Chicago College of Performing Arts Wind Ensemble, Chicago Composers Orchestra, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, and Vermont Youth Orchestra.
In a collaboration with Shara Nova (previously Worden, aka My Brightest Diamond), Brian co-wrote orchestral arrangements of My Brightest Diamond’s music for a concert featuring Shara with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago (August, 2011). At South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, Brian’s music and performance was featured as a part of Gabriel Prokofiev’s NonClassical Showcase at the Velveeta Room (March, 2011).
Having co-founded the Chicago Composers Orchestra in 2010, a group dedicated to the performance of orchestral music by living composers, Brian serves as Artistic Director and Board of Directors President overseeing all aspects of the organization. Since its inception, he has lead the development of this organization from incorporating as a recognized 501(c)(3) organization to producing seven consecutive seasons of dynamic and financially viable performances and events. He secured the largest single gift in CCO’s short history, a $10,000 grant in support of a development manager position which has since significantly elevated CCO’s fundraising capacity in addition to leading several successful fundraising campaigns for the organization.
Brian’s passion for new music is equaled by his passion for music education and is put to work as Director of Operations for the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras where he oversees nearly 600 student musicians in a variety of orchestras and chamber music groups that perform across the Chicago area and around the world. During his tenure at CYSO, he has led three international tours – one to Spain (2012), one to China (2014) and one to Central Europe (2017); overseen the growth of CYSO’s student body by roughly 30% from 400 students to nearly 600 students over the last six seasons; designed and implemented a program expansion which added a seventh orchestra, a jazz orchestra, and a neighborhood steel band program increasing access to CYSO; created CYSO’s Double Double Workshop, an annual day of master classes delivered by nationally and locally renowned oboists, bassoonists, and double bassists. Additionally, Brian has developed strong partnerships with many community organizations notably with the Chicago Bulls, Blue Man Group, Grant Park Music Festival, The People’s Music School, and the Chicago High School for the Arts; successfully managed the negotiation of a seven-year lease on our office, rehearsal, and event space; and founded CYSO’s innovative Composition Seminar for student composers.
Brian holds degrees in music composition from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (M.M.) and Illinois Wesleyan University (B.M.) where he also minored in Business Administration. He has received seven consecutive ASCAP PLUS Awards from 2009-2015. He is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), the League of American Orchestras and is a Voting Member of the Recording Academy.