Joseph Baber was born in 1937 in Richmond, Virginia, and began composing at an early age. He is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he worked with Gomer Jones and Mario Castelnuivo-Tedesco, and the Eastman School of Music, where his mentors were Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers and John LaMontaine. After a number of years in Japan as principal violist with the Tokyo Philharmonic, Baber returned to the United States and took a position for several years at Southern Illinois University, in the resident Illinois String Quartet. It was here that he met his future collaborator, novelist John Gardner. This was followed by a year as composer-in-residence for a Ford Foundation College Co-operative venture in Kansas, after which he assumed his present position as composer-in-residence at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.