Claude Baker attained a B.M. degree, magna cum laude, from East Carolina University in 1970. He subsequently studied composition at the Eastman School of Music with Samuel Adler and Warren Benson, and holds M.M. (1973) and D.M.A. (1975) degrees from that institution.
Among the many orchestras that have performed his music are those of Saint Louis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Louisville, as well as the New York Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfonica de RTV Española, the Orquesta Nacional de España and the Musikkollegium Winterthur. Other ensembles include the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Esprit Orchestra, the Voices of Change, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Empyrean Ensemble, the Momenta String Quartet and the Pacifica String Quartet (with pianist Ursula Oppens). His works are published by Lauren Keiser Music and Carl Fischer, and are recorded on the Naxos, ACA, Gasparo, Jeanné, IUMusic, TNC and Louisville First Edition labels.
Baker has served on the faculties of the University of Georgia and the University of Louisville and has been a Visiting Professor at the Eastman School of Music. He is currently Class of 1956 Chancellor's Professor of Composition in the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he is also the recipient of the university-wide Tracy M. Sonneborn Award for accomplishments in the areas of teaching and research. At the beginning of the 1991-92 concert season, he was appointed Composer-in-Residence of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for eight years. In recognition of his contributions to the St. Louis community during that period, Baker was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1999.
As a composer, Baker has received a number of professional honors, including an Academy Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; two Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards; a "Manuel de Falla" Prize (Madrid); the Eastman-Leonard and George Eastman Prizes; BMI-SCA and ASCAP awards; commissions from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Fromm Music Foundation, the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, and Meet the Composer (Commissioning Music/USA); a Paul Fromm Residency at the American Academy in Rome; and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, and the state arts councils of Indiana, Kentucky and New York.