5 Questions with a Musician: Regina Harris Baiocchi
Updated: Aug 31
I am amazed to announce this week's interviewee for 5 Questions with a Musician: Regina Harris Baiocchi!
Regina Harris Baiocchi is a composer, author, and poet. Her music has been performed by Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Philharmonic, the US Army Band, American Guild of Organists, Chicago Brass Quintet, Milwaukee Brass Quintet, Lincoln Trio, and other acclaimed artists. She has written for symphony orchestras; a mass; libretto and one-act opera; marimba concerto; hand drum concerto; ballet; chamber, choral; sacred and secular, vocal and instrumental music, jazz, gospel, and for pipe organ.
Regina’s writings are published by Oxford University, Third World, Facts on File, and the Center for Black Music Research Journal. Her poetry appears in Obsidian, Modern Haiku, Chicago Tribune Magazine, et al. She is profiled in New Grove Dictionary of American Music; International Dictionary of Black Composers; From Spirituals to Symphonies; on 3Arts, HaikuFest, HistoryMakers , and www.ReginaHarrisBaiocchi.com
In 2010 Regina founded 6Degrees Composers to feature music by Women; and in 2004 she founded Haiku Festival to inspire children’s poetry, and promote literacy. Regina wrote Variations in Black Music; Indigo Sound; Urban Haiku; Blues Haiku; and produced Kidstuff CD, her children’s music. Urban Haiku appears in Nicole Franklin’s film, When Sistas Jump. She appears on these and other CDs: Kaleidoscope; Soul of a Singer; Good News Falls Gently; journeys, places, stories; Lifescapes: one woman’s journey; unto thee i burn; and Where Freedom Rings.
Regina received awards from 3Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Lila Wallace, ASCAP, Arts Midwest, Illinois Arts Council, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, Chicago Public Library Foundation, and Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. She is an alumna of New York, DePaul and Roosevelt universities. Regina studied composition with Dr. Hale Smith.
(Biography by Regina Harris Baiocchi)
1) You wear many hats in your career as a composer, performer, poet, prose writer, and educator (did I miss any??). How do these aspects of your career come together and inform each other to create a fulfilling and sustainable vocation?
I, Regina Harris Baiocchi, am a composer, author and poet: I compose music; I write lyrics, fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Each facet is part of who I am: writing music and words fulfill and sustain me the way nutrients sustain physical Regina. Organs in my body enjoy a symbiotic relationship with each other due to nutrients and vice versa; my music and words contain equal parts of my DNA and often inform each other. For example, I use poetry to jumpstart a musical composition and conversely a musical gesture I write often implies a poetic line.
2) In addition to your careers in poetry and prose writing, you’ve had careers in Public Relations and as an audio quality control analyst. What did you learn from experience in those fields, and how have they led you to where you are today?
My first professional job was teaching math—which I love. At the core of my master’s thesis is the Boethius quote, “Music is math made audible.” The math in music is what feeds music theorists. Music’s beautiful sound feeds the soul. After 10 years of teaching, burnout inspired me to reposition myself. I did audio quality control for an interactive cable TV company. It was hack work that taught me how to produce, write ad copy, sync ad copy with music, and other advertising-related skills.
Public Relations and promotions interested me as a musician because I don’t like playing to an empty house. I went back to school and studied PR to build my concert audience, create my brand, and increase my visibility.
An outsider may not see the connections in my path. My “career” is a seemingly circuitous path that allows me to connect the dots between music, words, education, and public relations. I earned a living as director of PR for a graduate school of ministry and continued to write music, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. When I won a National Endowment for the Arts grant to write my libretto and opera, I took a leave of absence. My employer predicted I would not return. I assured him I would. But he was right. I never looked back.
3) The form of haiku is a major source of inspiration for you (you have at least two haiku books, Urban Haiku and Blues Haiku, and host an annual Haiku Festival for young poets). How does the haiku form speak to your musical sensibilities? How does the form and structure of music speak to your poetic sensibilities?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was seven years old. Haiku has always interested me. I excel when writing micro poetry like haiku, renga, tanka, senryu, haibun, cherita, et cetera. Fibonacci, free verse, found poetry, and micro poetry vie equally for my love. Other poetic forms rarely interest me. This brevity informs me as a composer too. I like writing short, concentrated compositions. A-B-A form figures prominently in my music, words, and PR. It’s an old form with different names that serves me and audiences well.
4) How does the concept of “storytelling” play a role in your music, your poetry, and your prose writings?
As composer, author, and poet, I am a storyteller first, an entertainer, second. If I don’t have a message, I will not write.
5) You have been called to teach in many facets of your life: as a high school teacher, university lecturer, and festival leader for young people. What is your favorite part about teaching? Do you have any advice for young artists today?
Teaching is the highest form of giving. I wrote a senryu my first year of teaching that sums up how I feel about education:
teachers are learners who have
outgrown small desks and single
points of view
from Urban Haiku & Other New Poems © 2004, RHB
-Regina Harris Baiocchi
23 June 2020, Chicago, IL
Thank you, Regina Harris Baiocchi, for sharing your incredible perspective on music, poetry, prose, and your life's work!