Mormon Tabernacle Choir director Mack Wilberg, my son, and ‘sticking with it’

In the afternoon of November 22, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mack Wilberg, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, at the Salt Lake Tabernacle and talk about the upcoming Christmas concert. I eventually wrote this Deseret News article that was published Dec. 8.

Mack Wilberg conducts the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square as they perform Handel’s Messiah for an Easter concert at the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 18, 2014.

As interviews go, it was a good one, and at the end, this busy man was gracious in granting me the chance to ask an extra question or two, for my own personal interest. My son Trevin is learning to play the cello and I was curious if Mack, who also directs the Orchestra at Temple Square, had any advice for my son on learning this instrument or how to appreciate good music in general.

Musical director Mack Wilberg leads the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square in performance July 1, 2016, at Meistersingerhalle in Nuremberg.

“Is he enjoying it? (me: “Yes, I believe so.”) Oh, good. How old is he? (13) Good. You know, it (learning an instrument) can bring such joy into your life. If he can stick with it, it will bring a dimension to his life that many people don’t have. All I can say is practice, even though sometimes you don’t want to, and stick with it, especially if he enjoys it. I would also say to you as the parent, if you think this could really go somewhere, then get him a good teacher. The teacher can make a big difference. Again, if he can stick with it, this will bring him experiences he won’t otherwise have.”

I hope Trevin will stick with it.

As a kid, my sweet mother made me take piano lessons for four years. At one point, my piano teacher, Joy Brower, tried to motivate me to practice by dangling a pack of football cards in front of me each week. Bless her heart, she was so patient with my lazy 13-year-old self. That worked for a while. One time I even got a Barry Sanders rookie card. In terms of music, I made some progress, but didn’t fully appreciate that opportunity I was being given and I never really progressed beyond level I. Now at age 38, I wish I would have stuck with it.

Linda Margetts, left, plays the organ as Mack Wilberg conducts a rehearsal in the newly-refurbished Tabernacle during preparations for a Music and the Spoken Word performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sunday, September 23, 2007. Photo by Jason Olson

I’m grateful for good music and the influence it has had on my life, and I’ve had the desire in my heart to try again. Maybe it’s not too late for me. I’ve had many powerful experiences with good music in my life through singing, but someday I’d like to be able to play the hymns of Zion at church. My wife and dear mother are amazing on the piano, and I’m grateful for their examples. Mack’s words have pushed me a little closer. I think I would like to set a goal to learn five basic hymns in 2017. That will be a good start. It’s time.

Mack Wilberg conducts the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during the Saturday morning session of the 176th Annual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 1, 2006.


Trent Toone

My name is Trent Toone and I’m a journalist for the Deseret News, where I write for a variety of feature sections. I was raised in Northern Utah and graduated from the University of Utah in 2003. Since then I have worked for several newspapers and received various awards over my journalism career. I am the author of “No Excuses, No Regrets: The Eric Weddle Story,” the sports biography of San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle. I served an LDS mission to Santiago, Chile, and spent a year teaching seminary. Like my father before me, I am a proud Eagle Scout. My wife Lisa and I have four children and live in Northern Utah. Feel free to contact me by emailing to trent.b.toone (at) gmail (dot) com.

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