December 30, 2013
Obituaries » JOHN R. BAIRD
BAIRD, JOHN RUSSELL, 74, of East Montpelier, musician and teacher, died on December 30, 2013. The son of Kenneth and Mary Baird, John was raised in Montpelier. As a boy, he especially enjoyed summers with his family at their camp in northern Vermont. John began studying voice at age 14. He sang, acted and played tuba in the band at Montpelier High School, from which he graduated in 1956. At Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., John earned a Bachelor of Music degree in 1960 and a Master of Music degree in 1961. He performed many opera roles in the Northwestern University Opera Theatre directed by Robert Gay with conductor Thor Johnson. He participated in opera workshops with Boris Goldovsky and song literature workshops with Lotte Lehmann. John studied French vocal literature privately with Pierre Bernac and also had private voice training at Indiana University with Frederich Gersten. In 1964-65, he was a special student of recital, opera and opera theater at Northwestern and also Indiana University. During this time, he also studied tuba with Arnold Jacobs. From 1966 to 1971, John’s musical career flourished. At the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Stevens Point, he taught voice, opera workshop and opera production. He was a recitalist and soloist with orchestras in the Midwest, including the Stevens Point Symphony, and he appeared with the Madison Civic Opera, the Milwaukee Skylight Opera Theatre and the Central City Opera of Colorado. He was also featured in leading baritone roles at the Indiana University Opera Theater and the National Opera Company of Raleigh, N.C., where he appeared in more than 120 performances. In 1970, John married pianist Catherine Merena and moved with her to Burlington in 1974. During their 30 years together, they taught voice and piano privately, performed as a baritone and piano duo, and presented notable musicians primarily in the Burlington area through Vermont Recital Associates. In addition, John was a bass soloist with various organizations including the Vermont Philharmonic and Burlington Oratorio Society and was also an opera workshop director. He served as Vermont governor of singing teachers and was a life member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. In 1994, the couple moved to Colchester, expanding their musical offerings as they presented Music at South Bay Hall, an ongoing series of afternoon concerts in their home. The couple found teaching music and hosting concerts in the European style deeply satisfying. After Catherine died in 1999, John continued the concerts, dedicated to her memory, until 2003. In 2004, John returned to his childhood home in Montpelier, where he continued to teach voice and tuba. In his later years, John, a benevolent, gentle soul, enjoyed a quiet retirement with his Himalayan cat, Starra, and surrounded by countless mementoes of a rich musical and personal life. For nearly 20 years, John was a regular at Junior’s in Burlington, where he leaves many longtime friends.