By: Kristin Conrad
Julia Baumanis’ musical journey began with her grandmother’s piano.
“My grandmother on my father’s side played piano for church choir, so she had a piano,” Baumanis said. “I was the only grandchild who would bang on it and then run away and blame it on my sisters. But they always knew it was me because nobody cared about the piano the way that I did, and I liked the sound of it.”
When Baumanis’ grandmother passed away, the piano was given to her, and she decided to take lessons. She went on to play clarinet and enjoyed the musical experiences and camaraderie found in her middle and high school band programs. Baumanis decided to pursue music in college and is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Music. She went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in Instrumental Music Education, master’s degree in Instrumental Conducting, and PhD in Music Education and Instrumental Conducting.
Today, Baumanis is the Assistant Director of Bands at Rutgers University. She is the first female band director in the university’s history.
Whether fate, destiny, luck, or coincidence, Baumanis’ personal life is tied to her musical journey as well and is decidedly cinematic. During high school, Baumanis’ now in-laws, Richard and Marilyn Klein, were involved with her high school band program. Baumanis’ parents were involved in the program as well, so the two families knew each other.
“I met my husband Adam in high school band, and we also marched in college together, but we didn’t date until after we both were out of college,” Baumanis said. “But music has been sort of this connective tissue between different parts of important circles in my life.”
An active performer, educator, and researcher, Baumanis has presented her research nationally. Most recently, her research has focused on developing a baton that records data collected from a conductor’s expressive gestures. She hopes to implement this technology in the conducting classroom as a technological tool to assist beginning conductors in developing their craft. Since Rutgers University is designated as a Research 1 institute, Baumanis has found other unique opportunities for collaboration as well. One such opportunity is a climate change concert.
“There are so many pieces out there that are being written about what we’re doing, and what we’re not doing, for our planet,” Baumanis said. “There are these avenues for collaboration to where not only can I conduct and produce a concert, but I also work with the film department and dance school on creative projects that raise awareness to this issue. There are also different ways to explore, with the help of our school scientists and engineers, what impact we, as artists, are leaving on this planet. For example, how much of a carbon footprint it takes to make a clarinet and how can we make it less – how can we be responsible with our art.”
As the first female band director at Rutgers University, Baumanis is in a unique position when it comes to providing advice to young women in music. She has also worked with Girls Who Conduct Mentorship Project, an initiative created in 2021 to empower and encourage the upcoming generation of women, women-identifying, and non-binary conductors.
“My advice is to find your person. And when I say that, find somebody who can see your superpowers before you can see them and can help you get on your path,” Baumanis said. “I was fortunate to have really amazing people to push me in my direction, but imagine all the girls who didn’t have that person to push them and never saw anybody like them. Subconsciously, this may mean that you can’t be a conductor, because there’s not another one who looks like you. If you can’t see it, how can you be it. So, we’ve got to break that cycle and we are working towards exactly that.”
Music has played an important role for both Baumanis’ career trajectory and her personal life.
“None of this would have happened without this thing called music,” Baumanis said. “My whole life is saturated with music and these connective tissue moments because of it. I don’t even know if I’d be a human without this thing called music. It’s so integrated at this point – there’s no way this wasn’t all meant to happen. And it’s strange because nobody in my family was specifically musical. I just really liked banging on that piano when I went over to my grandma’s house.”