Tribune Print Share Text

Familiar voice returns to the spotlight at Parkville fair

Oak Crest's Duke Baugh will sing national anthem on September 12

Created date

August 23rd, 2010

Duke Baugh can t recall exactly when he first learned the words to the national anthem. Nonetheless, for the last ten years, he has captivated audiences at the Parkville Town Centre Fair with his a cappella version of the patriotic hymn and is preparing to wow them again on September 12. I think if you grew up in America, the national anthem is just a part of you, says Baugh, who lives at Oak Crest in Parkville, Md. Blind since birth due to congenital glaucoma, Baugh attended the Maryland School for the Blind, where singing the national anthem was a ritual. Back then, we had something called assembly at the school, and every Friday morning, we would sing the national anthem, he says. I also remember when I was little and the President would address the nation on the radio, my mom would make us stand up while the national anthem was being played. So it was really engrained in me from the get-go. According to Baugh, his parents played a key role in his love of classical music in particular. My sisters and I were exposed to classical music all the time, says Baugh. My parents would play 78s [records] and listen to classical FM radio stations. After a while it just sank in. Thanks to his father, the late Ernest V. (Ernie) Baugh Jr., a well-known editorial writer at the Baltimore Sun, Baugh also enjoyed opportunities not afforded to many kids his age. My dad knew the manager of the Lyric Theatre, and we would sit in his box seats when the operas would come to Baltimore, says Baugh. After leaving the School for the Blind, Baugh attended Forest Park Senior High School, where he promised his mother he would study voice for one year. I had no idea at the time that I would enjoy it so much, he says. That one year turned into two, then three, and four...

Musical education

Baugh earned his bachelor s and master s degrees in vocal music from the Peabody Institute, studying under Oratorio Specialist Justin Williams and the late Frank Valentino, formerly of the Metropolitan Opera. Initially, Baugh had his heart set on teaching voice. But eager to apply his talent in the real world, he instead went on to become the director of classical music at WBJC-FM Public Radio. There, he spent the next 15 years as a music critic, interviewing jazz legends like George Shearing, opera stars, and soloists with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Public radio at that time was still very much a field experiment, says Baugh. In addition to classical music, we were doing all sorts of things including news, rock, and jazz. Today, public radio caters more toward specific things. For example, one station may attract listeners who want all news and talk radio, while others may offer mostly classical music, and so on.

On the air

Baugh spent a decade moonlighting as a soloist in the choir at the Church of the Nativity at York Road in Cedarcroft. And after leaving the radio station, he fulfilled his desire to teach with music appreciation classes offered through Peabody s Elderhostel program and Baltimore County Community College s continuing education program. The wonderful thing about Elderhostel and continuing education classes in general is that the students are not like those pursuing a degree, but just people who want to learn, says Baugh. Even after 25 years off the air, Baugh hasn t lost his panache as he puts his interviewing skills to the test in a different medium: hosting the feature program Getting to Know You, which runs on Oak Crest s closed-circuit TV station Channel 973 (WOC). Duke has had a longstanding relationship with the television studio here at Oak Crest for the last six years, says Joshua Runkles, station manager at WOC. He is very knowledgeable about the broadcasting industry. Although he has an incredible sense of humor, he also takes his job seriously and takes pride in sharing his radio experience with a genuine and sincere heart. He has really been a positive and upbeat asset to the station. In addition to his work at the TV station and annual performance at the fair, Baugh is a cantor at St. Michael s Roman Catholic Church in Overlea and still practices singing regularly. I don t want to lose what I have, says Baugh. Some people just stop singing when they get older, but not me. I ll keep singing as long as I m able. Sometimes the high notes aren t as good as they once were. But the low notes are still pretty good.