Mick Wetzel appreciates the many perks that come with being part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
He performs alongside elite musicians. He travels the world. He showcases his talent on the viola each year in front of thousands of music lovers.
“And I’ve got the best carpool in the orchestra,” he said, laughing.
His carpool mate — and fellow musician in the famed L.A. Philharmonic — is his wife of over three decades, violinist Stacy Wetzel.
The Wetzels have spent the past 32 years together as co-workers in the orchestra string section. While sharing a family, a household and a common employer might be a bit awkward for some spouses, Stacy and Mick wouldn’t have it any other way.
Their personal, professional and spiritual relationships, said Stacy, are grounded in love, trust and respect. Such attributes stretch across eternity.
A former ward member once asked her how she “could stand being around your husband all day, every day.”
“I looked at her and said, ‘What do you think (marriage) is going to be like when this life is over?’”
Mick said he not only loves his wife — he also likes her a lot. They are spouses and best friends.
“We are extremely compatible and have always been so,” he said. “It wouldn’t matter what we did professionally, I would love doing it with her.”
While the Latter-day Saint couple shares an unusual amount in common, they come from far different backgrounds. Stacy Phelps grew up in the Church in one of the world’s most glamorous cities, Hollywood. Mick is a convert and self-described “country boy” who was raised in rural eastern Washington.
But music and the gospel would be the connectors that brought them together.
Stacy’s mother was a violinist — “and my father had a beautiful voice.” Each of Stacy’s four sisters would become professional musicians. After high school graduation, Stacy spent several years studying at New York City’s Juilliard School before following a mentor to the University of Washington.
Mick, meanwhile, was the son and sibling of opera singers and began playing musical instruments as a child. While practicing the piano or violin can be a daily grind for many children, “I loved every minute of it.”
Although Mick and Stacy didn’t know one another, they both knew as young teens that they would make music their career and lifelong pursuit.
Mick joined the Church with the rest of his large family — “We were like the Brady Bunch” — after missionaries unexpectedly knocked on the Wetzels’ door. After finishing high school, the talented athlete was recruited to play basketball at Gonzaga University. But instead he accepted a scholarship to study violin at Indiana University.
Choosing between basketball and the violin was tough — but a far more difficult decision awaited Mick at Indiana. After much prayer, he decided to leave IU and accept a mission call to France. Many around him told him interrupting his violin studies was an awful idea for a fledgling musician.
“If you take two years off in your late teens or early 20s, you lose much of the physical development that’s required as you’re learning the violin,” he said. “Everybody in my life was saying, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it.’”
But Mick knew the Lord wanted him to do it. “I got such a strong and clear answer that I needed to go on a mission.”
Missionary work in France was difficult and he rarely picked up a violin. “But I loved every minute of it,” he said. “It was life changing for me.”
Hindsight also offers Stacy and Mick a clear view of the Lord’s hand at work in their young lives. All the dots in their distant lives seemed to be bringing them together. After his mission, Mick traveled to Seattle to study for a brief period with the same woman who was Stacy’s violin mentor. The Hollywood girl and the Washington country boy would meet in the Emerald City.
The two musicians became friends, started dating and eventually married. They would both claim graduate degrees at the University of Michigan before beginning their ongoing, shared professional careers.
The highly competitive and occasionally edgy world of professional music performance can sometimes run counter to the gospel convictions that the Wetzels embrace. Again, Stacy and Mick said the Lord has always looked out for them whenever their beliefs are challenged.
“Because we’re married and go to work together, we sort of have a built-in immunity,” she said. “There are times when we just roll our eyes when things go on at work that are distasteful or if there are conversations that we don’t want to be a part of. We know that we can get in our car, drive away together and not take it home with us.”
There have also been times when the Wetzels have opted out of required performances because there were elements of a production that they felt were inappropriate. Missing a performance meant going without pay.
But over the past decade, orchestra leadership has also looked out for the Wetzels.
“Now the personnel manager is proactive,” said Mick. “He will come to us and say, ‘Hey guys, there might be something bothersome (in an upcoming performance). Let me ask you now if you are going to opt out.’”
In exchange, the Wetzels have “been good soldiers.” They are flexible, rarely take sick leave and continue to work on their musicianship to develop their skills.
The parents of three adult, musically gifted children — Zach, Leah and Minor — the Wetzels also carefully managed their professional duties, which typically includes Sunday performances, so they could meet their parental responsibilities and opportunities. Church attendance and holding a family home evening were weekly priorities.
So do the Wetzels “talk shop” when they are away from the orchestra?
“We talk a lot about our kids,” said Stacy. “We are elated that they have made good choices. All three have served missions and they have taken ownership of their own testimonies and lives. But as parents, you never stop worrying.”
They also enjoy reading and running road races together.
The Wetzels said they are grateful for the many ways the Lord continues to help them blend their spiritual and professional lives, even as they keep their covenants.
“We’ve been able to visit almost 30 temples while being on tour,” said Mick.