Rick Baitz

In 1972 I was seventeen, living in South Africa and enjoying the status of being one of two long-haired American teenagers in the coastal town of Durban, — the other was my friend Ronald whose father was the American Consul General, and probably CIA chief. We both lived in the suburban hills, overlooking the Indian Ocean, a swatch of jungle, and the North Coast Road, which wound its way up to Mozambique.

On a windy, clear winter night, Ronald and I decided to meet at 10pm by a bridge that crossed the North Coast Road connecting to the stretch of jungle that separated the road from the ocean. Waiting alone next to the bridge, I heard the pounding, celebratory tones of dancing and singing from deep inside the trees. Suddenly an old Zulu man emerged from a narrow opening in the bushes and spoke to me: "Woza lapa, khosan, woza!" ("Come with me, sir, come!") I followed him down the path to a clearing where there were dozens of Zulu men in full warrior regalia. I offered a smoke I had in my pocket as a gesture of friendship. We smoked silently.

Then, out of nowhere, in response to an invisible signal, the entire troupe lifted one foot five feet into the air, stamped it on the ground, and started dancing — with me in the middle. They performed for me. It was a pulsating, literally earth-shaking dance and an extraordinary, life-changing night.

Raised in Rio de Janiero, South Africa and Los Angeles, Rick Baitz has worked as a deckhand on a dredger in Durban and a cabbie in New York. He holds a Masters degree from The Manhattan School of Music and a Doctorate in Composition from Columbia University. A recipient of multiple fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Tanglewood Music Center and the BMI Film Scoring Workshop, Mr. Baitz has been nominated for the American Academy, Institute of Arts, Letters Music Award and several Meet the Composer Awards.

Baitz has composed scores for numerous award-winning film and television productions. His recent credits include:

  • "The Vagina Monologues" and "Life Afterlife" (HBO)
  • "Guns & Mothers," "Fresco" and "Live Free Or Die" (PBS)
  • "The New Chimpanzees," "Heart of Africa" and "Looters" (National Geographic Television)
  • "The Lost American" (Frontline) and
  • "Until The Violence Stops" (Lifetime Television)

Mr. Baitz' concert works have been performed across the US, as well as in Europe and Latin America. The New York Times praised his "River of January" (translation: Rio De Janiero) calling it, "a glowing jewel of a new score". The Julliard commissioned quintet won Grand Prize in the Delius Composition Contest.

When I lived In Rio, millions of people would dance outside for days, sashaying from the hips, tapping polyrhythms on pots and pans. In those days of powerfully moving musical experience — amidst the vibrating masses of sambistas, the sensuality and warmth of Brazil’s music, people and nature engulfed me. The rhythmic power, the sophistication, the elegant sensuality, the harmonies — burrowed themselves into my soul, only to emerge many years later.

Seven-time Emmy winning songwriter and producer William Electric Black remarks:

"Rick's music is about dance, texture, sensuality, complexity of mind; it is about inner peace and inner conflict -- an inner voyage. He likes rhythmic elements reminiscent of an ethnic dance or song, refracted through the prism of contemporary Western music."

Rick Baitz is currently composing a large work for musical theater and recently scored "Ten Unknowns," a play written by his brother Jon Robin Baitz, a frequent collaborator. Other current projects include "Fitness Fighters", an animated television pilot, and "Making Music" (Silver Burdette Ginn/Pearson Entertainment) a multimedia educational project featuring Rickís arrangements of, African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian and Native American folk songs.

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