Education Week: Jenny Oaks Baker 'We are always accepted in God's eyes'

Jenny Oaks Baker took the breath away of the audience that sat in pure awe and amazement as her bow graced the strings of her violin in a concert Friday night during BYU's Campus Education week. Dressed in a white and blue glittering ball gown, Sister Baker presented her new album "Wish Upon a Star: A Tribute to the Magical Music of Walt Disney" and included arrangements of Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Mary Poppins, and many others.

Sister Baker was accompanied by Nicole Jackson Pinnell on the cello, Lysa Rytting on the harp, Daron Bradford on woodwind, Todd Sorenson on percussion, and her nephew, Jared Oaks, on the piano. The performance also included a special arrangement of "It's a Small World" played by Sister Baker's three daughters: Laura June on the violin, Sarah on the cello, and Hannah on the piano.

"I love playing about magic, wishes and dreams," Sister Baker said as she opened her performance with the famous "When You Wish Upon a Star" by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington from the movie "Pinocchio." The sound of her violin reverberated through the auditorium and unlocked the imaginations of all in attendance, preparing them to enter the magical world of Walt Disney through music.

BYU Education week Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011.
BYU Education week Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011. Photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Sister Baker said one of her favorite Disney songs is "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" (from "Cinderella" by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston) because the lyrics of the song have a line in them that talks about faith. She said this way she could include "a little bit of faith" in her album by including this song.

Laura, Sarah and Hannah impressed the audience and ended with a standing ovation. Laura, 10, has been playing the violin since she was 3; she showed her excellence in performance by involving all the emotion and care in her part just as her mother did before her. She wowed the audience with her ability to hit notes, and her amazing talent to sound older than she is.

BYU Campus Education week Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011.
BYU Campus Education week Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011. Photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Sarah, 6, has been playing the cello since she was 4. She played a miniature cello but the sound she produced swelled and filled up the entire room. Her fingers graced the strings of the cello as she played with her sisters in their arrangement together.

Hannah, 8, has been playing the piano since she was 4. She sounded far beyond the years of an 8-year-old as her fingers danced along the piano in perfect execution and elegance. As she accompanied her two sisters, the bond between the three became apparent and the audience smiled and sighed in adoration every time she had a solo.

Sister Baker played "Colors of the Wind" as part of her recital and said she felt a special connection and love for Pocahontas because she lives so close to where the real Pocahontas once lived. The arrangement, which included Native America flute and drums, wonderfully melded the historic features of the Disney classic.

"I think secretly when I decided to record a Disney Album it was because I wanted to wear a ball gown," Sister Baker confided. "I never got asked to the prom and I'm still bitter about that."

This seemed impossible to fathom for all those who had the opportunity to attend her recital and had the pleasure of listening to her and her ensemble engulf the audience in a sea of fairy tales.

The audience gave a standing ovation begging for an encore as Sister Baker finished her recital. She eventually came back out and was met with cheers and applause as she announced she would play one last song for them. She chose to play "God Help the Outcast" from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame.

She said the reason she picked it for the encore was to remind the audience "we are always accepted in God's eyes." As she played the final song, it was clear by the tears in everyone's eyes that the audience received the message.

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