by PETER DORFMAN
The Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University’s world-renowned conservatory, has traditionally prepared students for careers in performing, composing, or teaching music. But in recent years, all of those “legacy tracks” in the music field have evolved dramatically. It’s Alain Barker’s job to help Jacobs students chart entrepreneurial paths through this shifting creative landscape.
“All the major orchestras and cultural institutions in the U.S. have been reinventing themselves in the last 15 years,” says Barker, 61, founding director of the Jacobs School’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development. “We’re trying to instill an adaptive mindset in musicians entering a creative ecosystem that’s constantly changing.”
The traditional classical music audience is “aging out,” Barker notes. The way audiences consume music is shifting from the concert hall to more diverse venues, as well as streaming and recorded media. Technology is constantly changing, and music is absorbing diverse cultural and ethnic influences. “Ensembles that are struggling now are those that have not yet figured out how to be responsive to the culture around them,” Barker says.
His role is to keep the Jacobs School ahead of the curve, equipping graduates to be cultural entrepreneurs as well as virtuoso art musicians.
“I arrived here from South Africa with a flute and a backpack in 1986, thinking I would probably be here for two years working on my master’s,” he recalls. “But things happen in Bloomington.”
Barker stayed, working as an assistant instructor in the flute department at Jacobs, and embarked on a doctorate with a concentration in ethnomusicology.
After a year spent in Spain working in an orchestra, Barker came back to Indiana and was principal flute in the Marion Philharmonic for six years. He returned here in 1994 to take on the role of executive director of the Bloomington Early Music Festival, and in 2005 rejoined the Jacobs
School as director of marketing and publicity—skills he acquired running the festival. He spent a decade in that role.
In 2015, Barker became the founding director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development. His new “passion project” is with the Center for Rural Engagement, IU’s organization for outreach to communities in southern Indiana. He’s helped manage 25 arts development programs in four communities so far.
Barker met his wife Liz in Bloomington. They’ve raised two daughters, one an IU musical theater major and the other finishing high school. “This is an amazing place to live,” he says. “I’m so grateful to be here.”