Brennan Johns Awarded Third Annual David N. Baker Jazz Composition Scholarship

Published: 05.21.2018

Above: Tom Walsh, chair of the Jazz Studies Department at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music; David N. Baker Jazz Composition Winner Brennan Johns

The BMI Foundation, in partnership with Indiana University (IU) Jacobs School of Music, has selected Brennan Johns as the winner of the 2018 David N. Baker Jazz Composition Scholarship, named in honor of the revered jazz musician, educator, and founder of IU’s Jazz Studies program. Brennan was presented with the $2,500 award on Saturday, April 21, 2018 at the Jacobs School of Music’s annual Jazz Celebration concert.

“To receive the David N. Baker Jazz Composition Scholarship means a great deal to me, both as a composer and as a person,” said Johns. “I took every class David Baker offered, knew him personally, and looked up to him as both a mentor and the legend that he was and still is. His death hit me hard, as it did everyone who knew him, and to receive this award in his name is an indescribable honor. While this award is a wonderful affirmation as a composer of jazz and music in general, it is of much greater significance to me as a human, a Hoosier and a former student of Professor Baker.”

The David N. Baker Jazz Composition Scholarship is presented annually to a full-time junior, senior, or graduate Jazz Studies candidate at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Established in 2015 through the generosity of BMI Foundation Advisory Panelist Robbin Ahrold, the award commemorates the iconic achievements of the late composer, performer, educator, and IU Jazz Studies program founder, David N. Baker. Recipients are chosen based on academic and artistic record. Candidates must demonstrate excellence in writing significant original work in the jazz idiom.

Johns is a multi-instrumentalist lower brass musician from Bloomington, Indiana with a degree in Bass Trombone and Euphonium Performance from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he studied under M. Dee Stewart, Carl Lenthe and Wayne Wallace. His constant activity in the Bloomington and Indianapolis music scenes have taken him as far east as New York City and as far west as St. Louis. Regularly performing and recording in a wide variety of styles including classical, jazz, Latin jazz/salsa, funk/soul/R&B and Dixieland, Johns has accumulated a diverse portfolio of styles, idioms and instruments.

He has performed and recorded with a number of world-renowned artists, including Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine, Dave Steinmeyer and Rich Perry. He can also be heard on several albums, including "Basically Baker Vol. 2" by the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, the 2015 Grammy-nominated "Intercambio" by the Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, the 2016 Grammy-nominated "Canto America" by La Orquesta Sinfonietta, "BÁKINI - En El Nuevo Mundo" by Michael Spiro and Joe Galvin, as well as  "Siglo XXI" and "Rebel Portraiture" by the Liberation Music Collective.

In addition to performing and recording, Johns is an active transcriber, arranger and composer, who has had arrangements and compositions performed by the Capital Wind Symphony, Northwestern University Brass Ensemble, Eastman Brass Guild, Indiana University Brent Wallarab Jazz Ensemble, IU Latin Jazz Ensemble, IU Brass Choir, IU Trombone Choir and the Brass of Peace. A septet arrangement of his was also commissioned and performed twice for the Indiana Bicentennial.

Listen below to Brennan Johns composition "Qualia" performed in the Jacobs School of Music Georgina Joshi Recording Studio on March 5, 2018:


About the BMI Foundation
The BMI Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1985 to encourage the creation, performance, and study of American music. The Foundation’s programs include competitive scholarships for songwriters and composers, operating grants for nonprofit arts presenters, and support for innovative music education initiatives in schools and communities across the country. For more information about the work of the Foundation, please visit our website at For exclusive news and content, follow @bmifoundation on Twitter and  Instagram, and like “BMI Foundation” on Facebook at