Q&A with Jenny Oaks Baker and Jason Wright on their new book “Witnesses of Christmas” and their show “Joy to the World: A Sacred Celebration”
***Don’t miss Jenny Oaks Baker at Oakland Temple Hill on December 22, 2023! ***
On a recent episode of “The Book Mic Drop” podcast, Jason and Jenny discussed their new book, “Witnesses of Christmas: A Musical Journey Through the Nativity of Jesus the Christ” and their annual Christmas show, “Joy to the World: A Sacred Celebration.”
Below is an edited transcript of the interview, exclusive for Meridian readers.
Jenny, tell us who you are and why you do what you do?
Well, why I’m doing what I do is because the Spirit has told me to do it, and I try to be obedient because I love blessings.
I started playing violin when I was four, and immediately showed that I had this talent that God had given me. My mom recognized that and she was extremely supportive, and my dad as well. I practiced really hard and my parents instilled in me that I had a responsibility to develop my talent and be worthy and ready to use that talent to build the kingdom of God. And I just always knew that God had something for me to do and I had to keep the commandments, work really hard, and listen to the spirit to try to figure out what it was.
Then I got into the Curtis Institute of Music, which is a really special place. It’s probably the best music school in the world, so I was really blessed to get in. And then I got my master’s from Juilliard School in New York City. I met my husband in New York and we got married and moved to Washington, DC for his job. Then I got into the National Symphony and played as I was having children.
By the time I’d had our fourth child, I felt like the symphony wasn’t what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to be home with my kids. So I walked away from the symphony, which was really hard and scary.
I made some solo albums, but I didn’t have any solo concerts. The day after I resigned from the symphony, conductors started calling and I started performing quite a bit. Not being in the symphony, I had more time to help my kids develop their musical talents and over the years they started performing with me. Although they are now grown up, happily they still perform with me.
My oldest daughter Laura is married and she plays the violin. Hannah is the second oldest and she is a pianist. She’s going to the Royal Academy of Music studying piano in London. She’s in her third year now of college. Sarah, my third daughter, plays the cello. She started the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland this fall, but she’ll also come back for the tour. And then Matthew, our youngest, is a junior in high school. He plays classical guitar. So we performed together as “Jenny Oaks Baker and Family Four,” with my wonderful husband who supports it all.
So that’s a little bit of who I am and I’m grateful to be able to perform and grateful that Heavenly Father has entrusted me with this beautiful show and has provided miracles and direction on how to bring it to the world.
Amen, amen, and amen. I just feel so fortunate to have known all that because we’ve known each other for a long time. And I know that you love your education and the schools you attended, and I know you love the halls you’ve played in around the world, and I know you love the show and I know you love the book and I know you love it all, but you love God so much more than any of that that it pales in significance. It’s silly to even compare the two.
Tell us a little bit about the Christmas show that we’ve put on these last few years.
It’s called “Joy to the World, a Sacred Celebration,” but it’s all about becoming a better witness of Jesus Christ, which is why the book is called “Witnesses of Christmas,” and it follows the same script as the show.
So this all started about three years ago. Jenny reached out and said, “I want to do a Christmas show in the middle of a global pandemic.” We did just one show at Tuacahn Amphitheater in St. George, Utah for the first and second year, and then we jumped to 10 cities in 2022. And we survived somehow. We survived 10 cities! And then Jenny called me early this year . . . And what did you say to me, Jenny?
I don’t remember because it’s just been such a long year! But I think I was like, “I want to do 20!”
Yep, she said let’s go from 10 to 20. And I just remember thinking, “OK, five years from now, at the rate we’re going, we’ll be doing 1,200 shows between Thanksgiving and Christmas.” But somehow, you have pulled this together! What has this been like?
It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever broken down in tears so many times sitting at my computer as I have the last few months. It was really hard to figure out how to do a tour for 10 cities, but I did it and I thought, “This year I know what I’m doing, this is not new. I just do the same thing but just double it no big deal.”
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