Utah family band Jenny Oaks Baker & Family Four are taking their music across the globe from Israel to the Caribbean.
But they are also in high demand among their home crowd, with a second show added Saturday at Orem’s SCERA Center for the Arts in order to accommodate more fans.
The Daily Herald recently caught up with Baker in a phone interview on her way to a classical guitar lesson for her son, Matthew, in Brigham City ahead of the performances. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
SARAH HARRIS: You recently performed in Israel, so what was that like?
JENNY OAKS BAKER: Oh, it was pretty incredible. I’ve performed in Israel before at a couple of the same places. I’ve performed at the Garden Tomb before and also at BYU’s Center for Near Eastern Studies. But it was really, really special to be able to perform with our children and to share those places with them and help them to feel such a strong spirit. And we were also able to perform at the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Transfiguration, from the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem and also the Mount of Beatitudes, in addition to the Garden Tomb and the BYU Jerusalem Center, so it was pretty incredible.
HARRIS: And you were also able to recently perform at President Russell M. Nelson’s 95th birthday celebration, so I wondered if you could tell me what that was like for you?
BAKER: Oh, it was just awe-inspiring. Right before we walked out onstage, I was almost overcome with just gratitude to Heavenly Father for everything, all the miracles and wonderful opportunities he’s worked in our lives, in my life and in the lives of our family. And the privilege of being able to honor the prophet, performing with the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square and Orchestra on Temple Square, and in a program viewed by members of the church throughout the world, was pretty soul filling and just spiritually incredible. I had to kind of keep it together not to completely start bawling in gratitude before we started to play, and it was one of the most joyous performances of my life, to share that with our kids.
HARRIS: How do you feel about performing at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem, and what are your plans for the shows?
BAKER: I love performing at the SCERA. I’ve performed there a lot. I’ve performed there quite a few times with our children, so we’re all excited to be back. It’s definitely the home crowd, and we’re really excited to present a program that highlights music from our recent album. It was just released last month. It’s called “Jenny Oaks Baker & Family Four,” so we’ll be performing nearly all the songs on that album, including “The Sound of Music” that we did for President Nelson’s birthday celebration, “Greatest Showman,” a song called “Of Grace and Glory” that has a theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and also “Braveheart,” we’ll be doing a suite from “Mary Poppins.” … On the album, there’s a song that features each of our children in a big way. … A gorgeous piece called “The Gathering” that is kind of a tribute to President Nelson and his charge to all the members of the church to gather scattered Israel, and it’s a gorgeous arrangement. All of these arrangements are done by Kurt Bestor for our album, and they’re just fantastic arrangements, so it’s going to be a really, really wonderful program that brings people joy and is joyous and uplifting and entertaining. It’ll be a meaningful performance and also one that entertains and uplifts and brings joy.
HARRIS: I wondered what it’s been like for you to add the Family Four to the mix, and being able to perform with your children and take them on this musical journey with you?
BAKER: Well, it’s been a lot of work, but it’s been definitely worth it. I never envisioned performing with our children. I just started them out on their instruments when they were 3 and 4 years old because I thought that’d be good for them for their development and just for them as people. But I never envisioned that we would be able to someday perform together throughout the world. But I think our lives are awesome like that, where God will just inspire us to do certain things that turn into great things. He inspires us to do the little things, and then he makes great things come to pass, and that’s the way I feel about performing with our children. I never envisioned it, but I know that God did, and he helped me and my husband and our kids to make it happen by a lot of hard work, a lot of effort, a lot of dedication, a lot of blessings, a lot of money. It’s an extensive process. A lot of time, a lot of effort, but a lot of fulfillment and a lot of joy and a lot of really meaningful experiences we’ve been able to share together.
HARRIS: What’s your next project or your plans for the future?
BAKER: Well, we have a lot. We are excited to come to the SCERA. I’m in the middle of recording my next solo album for Deseret Book, so that’s exciting. We have more performances. Our family’s performing in Greece and Albania and Kosovo and Macedonia over Christmas, so we’re excited for that. And then we’re performing on a cruise, Caribbean, in January that people could join us if they want to travel with us. Kurt Bestor’s also performing on that cruise, so a few really fun things in our future.
HARRIS: What do you hope that people will take away in general from the work that you and Family Four do?
BAKER: I hope it brings them closer to God. I hope it helps them to feel God’s love for them, the music. I hope it communicates through the spirit things to their heart that God would have them know and feel and understand. Because music is powerful, and you can come to understand things that God would have you understand through music. So I hope that our music conveys the spirit and … brings them joy.