INSPIRE: Youth Spotlight Brooklyn Downs

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Brooklyn Downs loves to perform!  Doesn’t matter when, where or what; she’s always willing and ready to get up on the stage.  Brooklyn is a junior at Highland High School where she’s involved in band (Flute) and choir (Regional & All State member).  Over the last several years she has enjoyed participating in Studio 3 Performing Arts Showstopper Group and several musical productions (Wizard of Oz, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Little Shop of Horrors, High School Musical, etc).  Brooklyn also participates in the Red Note Foundation Choir which recently performed their Christmas Cantata at the Mesa Arts Center.  She loves playing the piano when she gets a chance.  Brooklyn is excited about participating in the upcoming Gilbert LDS Temple Cultural Celebration with a specialty role and just recently learned she got the part of Belle in her High School’s production of “Beauty and the Beast”.  Brooklyn is one of the sweetest girls you’ll ever meet and loves to give hugs to everyone around her.  She’s a beautiful girl inside and out.

INSPIRE Spotlight: Amy Honka

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Amy Honka, Soprano

1. What is one thing that you are truly passionate about? I am passionate about music, missionary work, working with people…and LIFE!!! Once a month I have the opportunity to participate in a training seminar with Accomplishment Coaching in San Diego. It’s training for what I am now doing for a living. I am a life coach. It’s awesome. I get to help people discover what they want in their life, what’s stopping them, and supporting them in getting there. It’s amazing to talk with people about their lives and what makes coaching valuable. These training weekends are intesive and I come away exhausted and exhiliarated as a coach. 

2. At one point you were managing  the orchestra for EVMCO. What was one of your favorite parts of that role? what was one the hardest parts? As Orchestra Manager with Millennial Choirs and Orchestras I felt like I was living a dream.  It was everything I loved wrapped up into one amazing experience.  My favorite part was being the person that people came to with challenges- personally or within the orchestra.  It was like every day brought a new adventure on how we could improve unity, vision, and purpose within the orchestra.  I also loved teaming with the leadership of MCO- their vision and passion infused a great sense of purpose into my life.  The least favorite part of that volunteer experience turned out to the be the tedious minutia I dealt with daily.  Out of small things proceedeth that which is great I would remind myself.  Hours upon hours of details to take care of was overwhelming.  And it never ended.  I came to greatly appreciate people who work behind the scenes for their time, energy, and dedication.  I would do it again in heartbeat.
3.  Aside from music what do you do? Aside from music,  what do I do?  Now that’s a funny question.  Music is much of my life.  I sing with INSPIRE, perform flute with Millennial Choirs and Orchestras, and as a solo and chamber ensemble musician.  I also manage my private flute and piano studio, enjoying the successes of students on a weekly basis.  But what else?  My time is filled with hiking, mountain biking, canyoneering, rock climbing, and anything outdoors.  I love to adventure.
4. Some weekends you slip away to San Diego. Besides, kickin’ it with your brother what are you doing out there? Answered above.
5. If you could pick 3 words to describe yourself what would they be? Energetic.  Creative.  Leader.
6.  If you had no constraints what would do with your life right now? I would love to backpack through Europe and  hike and canyoneer all the beautiful places of the earth.

Youth Spotlight: Taylor Christensen

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Taylor Christensen is a Tenor in INSPIRE: Youth and an amazing addition to the group.  He is a cool guy and talented musician with amazing guitar skills.  Here are some answers Taylor gave about himself in response to a few interview questions.

 

1. We know you are a stellar guitar player.  What bands or singers most influence your sound?

I would have to say that One Republic, Matchbox Twenty, and Jimmy Eat World influence my sound the most.

2. How did you learn about INSPIRE?

I learned about INSPIRE because my friend who was trying out for it wanted me to join.

3. What do you like to do besides sing and play guitar?

I love boardsports like surfing and longboarding. I also enjoy playing the piano and ukulele.

4. What’s your favorite YouTube video?

I don’t go on YouTube very often but right now my favorite video is probably Walk off the Earth’s version of the song Royals.

5. What is something unique about you people may not know?

Something that people may not know about me is that I can sing almost every note that the guitar can play.

INSPIRE Spotlight: Troy Hatch

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Troy Hatch, Tenor

1. How did you meet your beautiful wife? I met Sherry at institute back in 2011. I was on the institute council and was in my last year on the council. I had seen Sherry there a few times and wanted to talk to her, but she always seemed to escape out the door after the lessons were over. So one day I had to chase her outside, which I did and ended up getting her number and called later that week to set up a date which was that weekend. We dated for over a year and then I proposed and was married a few months later in December. We have been married almost a year…December 28th.

2. When did you start singing and how long and in what capacity have you been singing? Believe it or not, but I never sang in High School. I thought that guys were weird that sang, but then again I wish I would have started sooner. There was a group called Sound Celebration that did a fireside in the ward that I grew up in, in Tempe. I was forced in a way to go since it was a ward sponsored fireside. There was a girl that I thought was cute and so I talked my twin sister into auditioning for the group with me as I was embarrassed just for the sole purpose of trying to get to know this girl. Little did I know that I would actually like singing, and it all started from there. I started singing in 1998 just after I graduated High School and have been singing ever since. With Sound Celebration, we toured California, Utah, Arizona, and Hawaii. I was even able to put together a CD demo for Kenneth Cope in 1996, but never did anything to move it forward. I’m hoping to change this trend as I would love to produce a CD but on a larger scale. I’m truly grateful for Inspire which enables me to share my talent while being able to improve on my skills with amazing talent around me.

3. Do you play another instrument? I have played the flute, baritone euphonium, trumpet, piano, and currently I am trying to learn the guitar.

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4. What is something you are passionate about? I am passionate about singing, and want to continue to get better. I would love to produce a CD as well. I’m also passionate about what I do for work. I enjoy educating people on how to improve their life physically but financially as I do financial consulting.

5. What is one thing on your bucket list you hope to make happen this year? My goal is to travel the world. I would love to see the church history sites and I would love to take my spouse on a cruise.

6. How did you hear about INSPIRE and what keeps you coming back to the group? I was invited to a musical fireside by some friends and was impressed by the talent and felt that I could do it as well. So I went up after the fireside, and asked how I could get involved…went to an audition, and the rest is history. What keeps bringing me back are the friendships that I’ve been able to make with the members and prior members of the group, but also the spirit that is present in every fireside and practice.

INSPIRE Spotlight: Kathy Varga

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Kathy Varga, Pianist/Alto
1. How long have you been playing the piano and what brought you to INSPIRE?
I started playing the piano when I was five years old and have taken lessons on and off since then.  My mom had this idea that it would be cool for all her children to be able to play the church hymns (sounds familiar, right?).  All of my older siblings had taken piano lessons, so it was the cool “big kid” thing to do.  I remember begging to start and being really excited about going. I ended up entering Arizona State University as a piano performance major and graduated with a degree in music in 2005. 
 
I found out about INSPIRE on Facebook.  A friend of mine was in the choir and posted about auditions. I had been looking for an opportunity to be musically involved for a long time, but nothing had been a good fit yet. The timing was also interesting as I had just finished living through two very difficult years and was looking for some healing in my life. I saw on the auditions info that they were looking for singers, but emailed them and asked if they needed a pianist anyway (long shot, but heh–why not?). My little miracle happened and they took me in (what choir wants TWO pianists!?).  I love having the chance to share the love of God with everyone that comes to performances. That alone makes life awesome. 
 
2. You have been the one to organize our food on many occasions and I’m curious about what draws you to that task?
I love food.  What can I say?  🙂  Actually, even more than eating food, I really like looking for and trying new recipes.  Every one is a new adventure.  Preparing the food for INSPIRE just gives me an excuse.
 
3. Tell us a little bit about your day job?
I earn my pennies by working as a speech language pathologist for Gilbert Public Schools. My work week includes preschoolers to teenagers and I especially enjoy working with high functioning autism and cognitive disorders. The kids make me laugh every day.  I admire their compassion, their hard work, their enthusiasm for life and their resilience. Sometimes they are challenging, and I don’t love the paperwork, but I really enjoy being able to work at making their lives a little easier. 
 
4. What is one experience in your life that you think made a huge impact?
One that comes to mind was when I was practicing in an ASU piano room very late one night. I was working on a difficult Rachmaninoff etude and was frustrated with it and frustrated with some things in my life.  With every bang I just got more frustrated. Within a second of literally throwing my hands back over my head from the piano in a whoosh of caving drive, some unfamiliar eyes poked through the window and two hippie, tree-loving strangers came in to talk with me. They had been practicing in a nearby room and just felt like coming over. They didn’t stay too long, but left me with some unsolicited encouraging words. The power to give strength to others is held by all of us should we choose to use it.  Experiences like this have taught me that every opportunity to give strength to others, no matter how seemingly insignificant, you should take without hesitation. You just never know the good that you do.
 
5.  What are some of your hobbies or ways you spend your time?
I think I enjoy what most people do, family, friends, movies, travel and youtube. 🙂 Time is scarce these days, but I recently have discovered a love of photography.  I enjoy nature and architecture, so I love to take my camera and go exploring when I get the chance.  I love that I can take a billion shots, get a few decent ones and still call it good.  I’m a bit of a nerd, so I always find a good thinker book or conversation enjoyable, too.   
 
6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hard question. I just know that whatever I am doing, I will be growing. 

Another Year Another CD

michael & Kylee  Kylee & Michael

“Come Unto Christ” (2012)

 

 

“Truth Restored” (2013)

INSPIRE: music.service.hope is excited to announce that we just recorded our 2nd CD! Both times we have recorded our  CD we have been able to fund the project through a KickStarter Campaign. To fund our first CD, “Come Unto Christ” we set a goal for $800 and raised $870. To help fund our 2nd CD, “Truth Restored” we set a goal for $1,500 and raised $1,548.

It has been exciting to see thing grown and come alive with INSPIRE in the past 2 years. Recording our 2 CD’s is just one example of our growth, experience, and the amazing people with whom we’ve surrounded ourselves. For our first CD we just relied on donations and gave our CD’s away. For this new CD we actually raised enough funds to buy the mechanical rights to the songs on the CD so that we can sell them. (we will let you know when “Truth Restored” becomes available for purchase).

One day INSPIRE will have our own recording studio and a place to call home but until that happens we are very happy to be recording where and when and with whomever we can find that wants to blow wind in our sails. We are so grateful to all of those who donated, helped with the building, the recording, and will help with the mixing, packaging, and distributing.

Here’s to another wicked awesome year and another CD!

INSPIRE Spotlight: Nate Wengert

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Nate Wengert, Bass

1. You have traveled all over the world? What is one of your favorite places and why? And where do you want to go next?
       Yes I’ve been able to see a few places, though I couldn’t say there’s an absolute favorite.  But I think Granada, Spain, and Marrakesh, Morocco, are among the most favorite. I got to study in Granada and things really came together during those months, and Marrakesh was just a whole different magical world.  Next I want to see the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.
 
2. You are Arizona home grown and from a little town. What is one of your favorite things about St. Johns, AZ?
      That it is MY hometown.  That it’s full of family and well-known friends who hope the best for me.  That everyone is at the football game on Fridays.  It’s the kind of place they sing about in country music.
 
3. How did you hear about INSPIRE and why do you keep coming back?
     Once upon a time I was working as a Trailwalker for ANASAZI Foundation, and a coworker Ms. Kyleen Shields came asking if I sing because she’s starting a choir.  I got on board and keep coming back because it’s great to be a part of something awesome and that is a force for good.  
 
4. Share with us about one of you hobbies?
     I spent a lot of time with Anasazi bands sitting around a campfire with a stick and knife in my hands, so I got a lot of practice at carving things.  I still like to make things out of wood.  
 
5. If you could be in your dream job what would it be?
     Let’s keep hoping that this Nate’s-Life-Plan-A works out and within 7 years I can be a dentist and doing yearly mission trips to places around the world, especially in Latin America because those places are my favorite.  
 
6. You are one handsome single guy. What are you looking for in a relationship?
     That she’s not waiting for the world to define her but is busy doing it herself.  That we could road trip for months and still enjoy e/o’s company, and occasionally pull my head out of the clouds to tell me things how they are.

Practice, Practice, Practice

INSPIRE is rehearsing as our new group for our upcoming firesides. We have such a wonderful and talented group right now. Here are most of the men in our group practicing the song, “Go With Me” by Kenneth Cope that is in our “Truth Restored” Program.

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Kathy (yes I took this w/ Christ in the background on purpose) is one of our two wicked awesome piano players. We are so grateful for her service to INSPIRE. Not only does she play for the choir but she spends many hours helping choir members rehearse. She also puts up with the demands of Michael & I (this is no small feat).

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I am being completely honest when I tell you that practice was over and everyone was just sitting around and talking. It was as if everyone likes each other or something?? But seriously, a choir that practices together, stays together!!

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Start Something That Matters

When talking about INSPIRE people often ask me HOW Michael & I got started or WHY we got started.  I could ramble on about us and the hows and the whys but awhile back I found this inspiring video while doing research on Blake Mycoskie’s non-profit, “TOMS”. It pretty much sums up the WHY.
“…What they’re missing is me. What they’re missing is you.  What the world is missing is what you have always longed to do.”  

Inspiring, right?  I went and bought Blake’s book, “Start Something That Matters,” and I read it in one sitting. It is full of inspiration and fabulous ideas. A must read!

Sometimes it is hard when we put in so much of our hearts into INSPIRE and other people drop out or don’t show up or can’t seem to really dig in. Sometimes the last thing I want to do is stand up in front of people and lead them in music. Sometimes I feel very insecure about myself and what I have to offer. But, then I feel the power of music and service change my heart.

I get a glimpse of someone who came to our fireside and felt love for the first time in a long time.I look out into the audience and  can see what it looks like on someone’s face to feel hope again. I listen as a woman, w/ tears in her eyes, thanks INSPIRE  because we spent the day clearing trails—and asked for nothing—in a state where we don’t even live. I come to choir practice with my head down and my heart burdened and I can’t leave rehearsal w/o being filled with the spirit and renewed strength. These experiences just scratch the surface of the power of starting something that matters!

Our beginnings were small and riddled with difficulty but we were driven, passionate, hard workers, who longed for a day when our work and passion would spill out of the hearts of a mighty choir. I thank God every day for INSPIRE and the affect it has on my life and most importantly on my heart.

And So It Begins…Again

Things get easier with practice and with time and so it goes with INSPIRE. We just had our first rehearsal with the new group and Michael and I were amazed as the level of commitment and talent!

I couldn’t help but sit on the stage, staring out at the brilliant choir, and remember our humble beginnings. We had no idea, well little ideas, of how to actually run a full choral group. We learned fast.

I think I would have cried with how many talented guys we now have in the choir if I wasn’t so excited about the wicked awesome sight reading capabilities of the group. I was in awe—and in a good way.

This is going to be an epic experience for everyone involved