“Called to Play,” New Era, Feb. 2004, 28
They don’t get chased by dogs or have companions. They don’t write letters home on preparation days because they still live at home, in Pleasant Grove, Utah. But the Willeys—Anthony, 18, Elizabeth, 16, and Kristina, 14—are still missionaries, music missionaries, actually. They were set apart in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
“When I was set apart,” Elizabeth says grinning, “I was told, ‘Now you’re the youngest sister missionary.’ It made me feel special.” And she enjoyed being the youngest sister missionary until a year or so later when her little sister Kristina was set apart and took over as the youngest.
As music missionaries, Anthony, Elizabeth, and Kristina can share the gospel without ever opening their mouths. Anthony says music missionaries can reach people that regular missionaries might not be able to.
“Music reaches people who wouldn’t hear about the Church any other way. It isn’t like knocking on a door and going into someone’s house; it’s more subtle,” he says.
Elizabeth says, “People listening to good music will feel the Spirit, and when they feel the Spirit, they’re willing to learn more.”
So do the Willeys lug their violins, violas, and basses from door to door playing inspirational music for people? Not exactly. If you’ve ever seen a Church music broadcast or attended one on Temple Square, you’ve probably seen how Anthony, Elizabeth, and Kristina share the gospel through music. They are some of the youngest members of the Orchestra at Temple Square.
Being so young compared to the other members of the orchestra doesn’t bother these teens a bit. They actually love it. Elizabeth says, “Even though there are only a few members under 20 in the orchestra, I feel like I fit in. I think it’s great because there isn’t any goofing off. Everyone had to work so hard to get here.”
How did they get to be in such a prestigious orchestra at such a young age? “Lots and lots of practice,” Anthony says.
To be in the Orchestra at Temple Square you have to be one of the top musicians in the Church, able to play whatever difficult piece might be put in front of you. And it’s a huge time commitment.
Kristina says, “Being a part of the Orchestra at Temple Square is my favorite thing I’ve ever done, but it’s been a sacrifice. It’s hard to find time for homework and friends because we have to practice every day and rehearse several times a week.”
But Anthony, Elizabeth, and Kristina all say the hard work is worth it.
“It’s neat to be able to see the audience’s reaction when we perform,” Elizabeth says. “The Spirit is always there. It makes me feel like all my hard work has paid off.”
The teens’ mom and dad go to their concerts and sit up in the balcony where they can see all their children. Their mother, Denise, says, “When the music gets going, the Spirit sweeps over me and over the whole audience.”
The beautiful music the orchestra plays on Temple Square helps many people feel the Spirit. After the concerts are over, members of the audience can learn more about the Church from the full-time and Church service missionaries standing at the doors.
Anthony loves the missionary opportunities that being a member of the Orchestra at Temple Square has given him. “Being a member of the orchestra has made me want to be a better person,” he says, “and it has prepared me to be a better full-time missionary.”
Anthony, Elizabeth, and Kristina are not the only members of their family involved in music. Their younger siblings Alexander, Catherine, and Rebekah (also pictured above) have also been playing instruments nearly as long as they’ve been able to walk. The Willeys agree that music helps bind their family together. They also say that good music can bless everyone’s life, whether they play an instrument or not. Elizabeth says, “Anyone can enjoy music on some level. You don’t have to be a professional musician.”
Anthony says, “There are lots of opportunities for teens to learn music. You can sing in a ward youth choir or join your school band, choir, or orchestra.”
Alexander, 13, says listening to good music helps him with his schoolwork. He says, “Listening to Mozart before a test can help you perform well. Good music can clear your mind so you can learn or remember things better.”
Kristina listens to uplifting music when she’s sad because it makes her feel better. She says, “Good music can invite the Spirit. It’s like a prayer” (see D&C 25:12).