Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Music; My Heavenly Gift" Part 2

Catch Up For This Week August 2, 2014

We are in the midst of the summer doldrums. Things have been pretty low-key. When we aren’t as busy it is much easier to get homesick, especially with all of you going to Powell this coming week! I guess we need to enjoy it while we have it. We are blown away by how much time the Europeans take for vacation. It’s not 1-2 weeks, but 4-6 weeks of travel, mostly in the months of July and August. By the end of September we will be back in the thick of things!

It’s been a great time to really organize and get our reactivation program in place and trained. Things move slowly here. Today we are actually writing our two wards without reps, giving suggestions we’ve gotten from some of our kids on names that would work from their wards. Hopefully that will be enough to get the Bishop’s response. The rest of our reps are trained and ready to go.

We had a very sweet experience this week attending a Zone Leader Training Session which included not only the Zone leaders but the Sister Trainers (equivalent to zone leaders, only they train the sister missionaries.) We were there to explain how we are going to use them on Wednesday nights to go out with the YSA reps finding and locating our less-actives.

Your dad and I sat in that room and looked around at an amazing, powerful, handsome group of young men and women that would impressed anyone, in the church or out! And what was more amazing was they represented countries from all over the world. What a mission and what a set of complexities that most missions don’t have to deal with. It was truly impressive. It made both of us get teary just looking at all of them!Another amazing thing from that meeting was how this mission is utilizing technology.  I’m glad I got to see how it is assisting the work because sometimes I feel bitter with all the misinformation that is available on-line that really effects and hurts the testimonies of our kids. I realized at that meeting what an astounding asset technology can be in its capacity to record, graph, compare and store data. Our mission is using Facebook. That’s how my sister missionaries has helped me locate and connect with dozens of YSA from our ward by friending them. Also we’ve been able to vet dozens of names that no longer belong on our rolls through finding them on-line. It’s astounding. And no one is doing it better than our London Mission. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with Pres. and Sister Jordan. What an honor it is to serve in their mission!

We continue to feed, teach, counsel and love. It’s unending but we would have it no other way. We are blessed to be able to do it!

On the tube with Lindsay Briggs and Keanan Cantrell, two of our favorite YSA. We are on our way home from watching another one of our YSA, Katie Morrill star in a production of Shakespeare. Fun night with fun people!

“Music: My Heavenly Gift” Part 2

My Years at B.Y.U and Its Aftermath!

I was fortunate to receive a partial scholarship to BYU. Between my scholarship, working two jobs during summer and help from my parents I never had to work during the school year. As a music major that is almost impossible because of all the practice time and extracurricular activities associated with being a music major.

I had high hopes for being a vocal major at a school such as BYU. There were many wonderful musical events for me; singing and touring with some of the best college choirs in the country and solos in a couple operas. But it was never what I had hoped for. It all started with the choice of my voice teacher.

One of the things I did upon arriving at school was to go and find a voice teacher. I went to the Music Department where the first person I met was the head of the Opera Department. When he heard me auditioned for him he accepted me as a student that very day. Looking back I wish I hadn’t acted so quickly. I think I was overly impressed with his position as head of the department. It would prove to be a big mistake.

I had always had a very big, powerful voice. But I was still only 18 years old when I arrived at school. This teacher took my voice and had me performing arias from opera that I should never have touched for several years; big classical arias from Wagner etc. By the middle of my second year at school I HATED what my voice had become!! As it got worse and worse what had previously been nerves performing solos developed into an absolute phobia of singing. The thing I had most loved in high school became my most terrifying experience at BYU. I realized I had to change voice teachers or my voice would be beyond repair!

My junior year a miracle happened. The music department got a new Artist-in-Resident. His name was Ray Arbazu. He was a glorious Italian bel canto style tenor. He was short and round with a typical Italian personality; all emotion. And he could SING!!!!! In desperation I went to him and asked for his help. Gratefully he took me on as a student.

I will always feel Ray rescued my voice. We pretty much started over. I had to relearn how to sing under his tutelage. By graduation I was singing much more to my liking.

Yet a HUGE problem remained. I was singing better but the damage to my psyche was done! I was left with a horrible fear of soloing that plagued me for the rest of my life.

I’ll never forget singing at my final Senior Recital, a prerequisite for graduation. There was a panel of 4 faculty members who judged your performance on whether you had enough vocal proficiency to graduate as a voice major. So much pressure. I was terrified and sick with anxiety for the week preceding the recital.

I did my program and when I had finished one of the judges asked me in a surprised voice, “Where have you been hiding with THAT VOICE?” What could I say? That my vocal teacher ruined my voice and now I was terrified to sing? For me it was a horrible personal tragedy.

I graduated in music from BYU and for the next three years I didn’t sing a note, not even the hymns. It was such a heavy burden of guilt. I felt such shame at not being able to share my gift. It was devastating.

In all of this there was something beautiful that emerged. I didn’t recognize it at first. It started when I became a student teacher at Hillcrest High School in Murray, studying under the fabulous teacher of music; Leo Dean. He had the top music program in all of Utah. It was an honor to be chosen to go work under him. As part of my student teaching he allowed me the chance to work with one of his choirs and ready them for their spring concert. I had never really conducted a choir before. It was love from the moment I lifted my hand and conducted my first beat! That love affair and passion has continued to this very day!

Eventually I would begin to sing again, but it was usually in duets or trios. Solos were so painful that I would do whatever I could to avoid doing one. There was one exception. I did many musicals through my adult years and sang many numbers on stage. Somehow the terror didn’t apply when I was playing the part of someone else. What a powerful thing the mind is!!

I’ve pondered through the years on what was the purpose and learning for me of this suffering and loss. I’ve come to a realization that there were some important things I needed to learn and do.

First I don’t think I could have ever understood or have had patience for other’s fears. Things always came so easy for me. Being in front of a group of people never phased me. Talking, teaching, acting, all were second nature. This phobia allowed me to truly empathize when others suffered from their own insecurities and fears.

Second I don’t know if I would have ever fully embraced directing choirs like I have if I had been a performer. And I KNOW that choir is where the Lord wanted and needed me to serve. Performing would have been all about me. Conducting has always been about others. My sphere of influence with others has been multiplied hundreds of times by my choice to direct instead of perform.

Third I feel the Lord compensated my sadness with an even greater joy by sending me children who loved music and could sing and perform in the way I always dreamed I would be able to. Through the years this has brought me such incredible joy. I can’t count the times I’ve sat playing the piano with tears running down my face in complete gratitude to Father as we have shared music and the spirit music brings with each other. Their voices have thrilled me, filled me and healed my soul. This has truly been one of my most precious gifts from God. I will thank Him and praise Him all my days!

Before we left on our mission Jim commissioned Annie Henrie to paint a picture symbolizing what I have expressed above. The picture shows a woman holding music in her hands looking up at 5 heavenly beings singing and reaching out toward her. That picture is a symbol of the hundreds of choir members I’ve worked with and shared deeply spiritual experiences with through the years. But even more specifically it represents my five angel children who have restored and healed my broken heart through their voices and the music shared together around our piano. They will always be my greatest heavenly gift!


  1. Oh Toot, I never realized what a traumatic experience that teacher in college was to you! I definitely agree though, that had you not focused on your conducting, there would have been thousands of lives negatively impacted because they would have missed the profound impact of singing in and listening to your choirs. Sadly, I didn't get the gift to solo (something I am extremely bitter about), but I did get a love of singing. So much so, that I have a constant humming going all the time! I love and adore you and your talented giving self! We are sure going to miss you next week...

  2. I don't know if I have ever heard that story and where you got your fear of singing from. I am so mad at that teacher. How sad! I CANNOT fathom you not being a choir director though. What a tragedy that would have been. I too count you raising us with joy through music as one of my greatest of all, gifts and treasures. It has been one of the highlights of my life. It is a constant that I can always turn to. My testimony was partly formed at that piano, sharing something that I love, with the person whom I love most...(you)! I sang of Christ, the Holy Ghost, compassion, the atonement, forgiveness, trials, heartache, love, and joy in the journey. Thank you mom for heeding Gods council and training up your children and cultivating their talents through yours. I love you Ma, and thinking about you not being there this week brings me to tears, but once again thank you for setting the example of how it should be done and we will find our own magic to bring to it. Love you.

  3. Wow, Aunty! What an incredible "valley of the shadow" to have been asked to walk through in gaining empathy for others' experiences. I believe your gift of conducting would have blossomed in other ways because it is so obviously one of your giftings but this was the chosen path. Amazing how, like Joseph of the Old Testament, God used these trials for tremendous good in your life (and into the next generations!). What a kind, loving God. Really glad you posted even though the fam is at Powell! After missing your post last week, I'm so happy to have a post from you this week!! XOXO

  4. Bless your heart! Isn't it incredible what we learn from trials? You have certainly blessed others by what you have experienced. We are in awe of what you and Jim are accomplishing here in London with the YSA! Your love and hard work and reliance on the spirit are working miracles. May the Lord continue to sustain you both in this difficult, so-important service. We love you!