Recognition for simply doing what he loves is a welcome surprise for Stephen William Baker, 61, of Kogarah.
Mr Baker is a 2016 recipient of the Medal of the Order (OAM) in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours for his service to music education, particularly to voice and performance.
“This award means a great deal to me,” he said.
“It’s nice to be appreciate when you don’t expect it.
“I’m just fortunate to be doing what I love – it’s icing on the cake.”
He has been president of the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing NSW since 2013, and is a senior lecturer in contemporary voice and performance at JMC Academy.
In his professional career, Mr Baker has been a vocal soloist for more than 35 years, as a guest soloist for the Australian Ballet, big bands, in productions at Sydney Opera House and for televised variety shows on television including the Don Lane Show.
He has also had leading roles in musical and dramatic productions at Sydney theatre venues, and teaches at his Kogarah studio.
Music is most certainly in his genes.
“Both my parents were in the music business at high level,” Mr Baker said.
“My mother Claire Poole was a pioneer in Australian television and music and my father was a successful singer who performed in the US.
“So I guess you could say there was very little choice to do anything but music.”
A career highlight is coaching the next up-and-coming Australian talent.
“Teaching started as a default,” Mr Baker said.
“In my early 20s, someone asked me for some help with their voice and I said why don’t you try this, and it worked.
“From there it gained momentum.
“I love mentoring teachers, and seeing people move forward with their careers.
“I’m also a huge advocate for learning instruments in schools.
“We have great, young talent in Australia and so little opportunities for them to perform.”