Despite obstacles, musician and author follows his passions

Book signing in Mill Creek Feb. 7
By Brian Soergel | Jan 20, 2015
Photo by: Brian Soergel Nick Baker performs regularly at the Edmonds Senior Center.

Blind since birth, Nick Baker relies on a red-tipped cane to make his way around while stretching his neck back and forth to listen for sounds.

Because of his appearance, classmates called him “turtle.”

But now that he’s a confident 34 and sure of his life’s path, you could say he’s come out of his shell. And like others before him who have taken a derisive term aimed their way and turned it into a badge of honor, he decided to call his debut children’s book “Turtle.”

“That’s my way of saying, ‘Take that, you punks!’” Baker said.

In the book, Baker tells of being teased and bullied in grade school. “If someone is making fun of you, don’t be afraid of telling an adult,” he said.

In addition to his blindness, he suffers from a mild form of autism that often makes it a struggle to fully understand conversations.

Baker will read from his book – a special Braille edition – at a book signing Feb. 7 at 11 a.m. at University Bookstore in Mill Creek.

Those who attend will also discover Baker’s many musical talents – gifts he’s worked hard to refine – as he will perform covers and original songs on piano, accompanied by his friend and bandmate Brian Packard.

It’s the music that puts the drive in Baker’s busy life. The Edmonds resident performs regularly at the Edmonds Senior Center and at assisted living centers, clubs, wineries, weddings, birthdays and other events.

At the Senior Center recently, Baker’s fingers moved over the piano’s keys smoothly as he performed and sang American standards such as “Everybody Loves Somebody,” “Misty,” “Chicago” and “San Antonio Rose.”

“Everybody loves these songs,” Baker said. His mother and manager, Kathy Passage, watched from a nearby table.

The Senior Center gig doesn’t pay, but Baker does earn a free hot lunch. While eating during a break, several seniors stopped by with compliments. Baker always returns the affection.

“I love it here,” he said. “This senior center really rocks.”

Baker started playing music by ear before he turned 3. “At 2-and-a-half, I learned one-handed melodies. When I was 4, my mother and my grandmother were blown away when I learned to play with my left hand. I played them the Westminster clock chime.”

Baker, who has several CDs available on his website, www.nickbakermusic.com, grew up listening to his idol – Stevie Wonder – and now records music on his computer with CakeTalking, audio editing software used by Wonder and guitarist Raul Midon, among other blind musicians.

Baker graduated from Shoreline Community College, where he met bandmates Packard and Chris Yates. Their band, Dynamite Limbo, occasionally performs at Shoreline’s Easy Monkey Taphouse.

In addition, Baker is part of United by Music (www.ubmna.org) and performs with professionals in the area who serve as mentors. He has two concerts so far in 2015, with the big one coming July 4 in Portland.

As you might imagine, Baker inspires many who see him perform. Expect the same in Mill Creek.

“For those who believe in themselves, don’t give up and don’t give in,” he said. “When I think positive, good things happen.”

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