Monday, November 17, 2008

A Lawyer with Soul

Sometimes I just love this little job of mine. I go through a myriad of new and known LDS Music artists on the LDS Jukebox listing, (many of whom I know already but so many I have yet to meet), and decide who I’m going to interview next.

Having recently returned from Hawaii I was trying to get my bearings back when I found my first “Friend” request on the LDS neighborhood sponsored site I recently joined called Neighborhood and Friends. As I clicked on “Accept” Jay Young, Jay’s fabulous voice began singing gospel favorite, The Way He Came written by Mark Harris, in the background. The song is just one of ten featured on Jay’s debut solo album One More Stone which came out in 2008 to rave reviews.

So it was, in that moment of sweet memories of my Hawaiian musical paradise I had recently left, that I was suddenly taken to gospel glory (kind of like a City of Enoch experience but more down to earth), and knew who I had to interview next…my new music friend in the “Neighborhood” Jay Young.

Reading the numerous articles and bio on Jay’s website at I learned a lot about my new music friend.

#1 While Jay is a successful lawyer and partner with Marquis and Aurbach law firm out of Las Vegas, Nevada, at his core he’s really a gospel singer. Although he’s only had about six months of formal vocal training and doesn’t read music, he is a featured soloist in Sister Gladys Knight’s Grammy winning choir Saints Unified Voices…the ultimate SUV of gospel music!

#2 His wife has an awesome name…Julie of course, making this amazing musical duo (Julie is an accomplished pianist and also a member of the SUV choir) one of the coolest music pairs born of the 60’s.

#3 Jay and Julie (that has such a lyrical ring to it) have four children about the same ages as my own, and

#4, This to me is the most amazing of all, Jay had so many ear infections as a child that he suffered about 60% hearing loss in his left ear and a less profound loss in his right ear… yet he sings… beautifully!

His story reminds me in part of another great singer I met a couple of years back at a songwriter’s workshop I had put together. This young man suffered a vocal paralysis soon after winning a major TV network talent show yet went on a few years later (this past season in fact) to come in second place on American Idol…that would be David Archuleta…in case you hadn’t heard of him. Which leaves me to beg the question?

“If these two men can sing so incredibly despite the difficult physical challenges that would normally set back a music career…why can’t I sing that well?”

Okay, this article really isn’t about me whining again about my lack of vocal talent…well sort of it isn’t…but not really…now back to Jay.

So what can I say beyond “I’ve become a BIG fan of Jay Young’s gospel music”, other than encourage you to go to and learn for yourself what makes Jay’s voice and debut album “One More Stone” so full of the gospel! Okay, beyond that, maybe just have Jay himself answer a couple of questions that might not have come his way before.

Jay your story is so inspirational and amazing on so many levels, from being partially deaf and not a professionally trained vocalist, to becoming a featured soloist in the most amazing Gospel Choir lead by numerous Grammy award winning artist herself, legendary Gladys Knight. Looking back on your unexpected musical career how do you feel the Lord has blessed you, and helps you keep your life (particularly your family life) balanced, despite the tremendous sacrifice of being a member of the choir and a lawyer?

My single greatest asset in this life is my wife. She IS my balance; whenever one aspect of my life overburdens the rest, whether it is work, church service, or music, she knows how to pull me back and make me look at things in a way that I want to make those little adjustments we all seem to need from time to time. She is the one who has always encouraged me to make music more a part of my service to God. I have always felt the love of the Lord and feel blessed that I can express that love through music. It is such a joyful medium that has the capacity to touch a heart in ways that a spoken sermon or written word cannot. I have always expressed my emotions – good and bad – through song. It gives me joy when others tell me that one of my songs helped them through their day, helped them deal with troubled times, or allowed them to rejoice in God’s goodness.

Is there any special missionary moment or event you would like to share in regards to music?

The Saints Unified Voices choir is a missionary choir. Bringing souls to Christ through music and testimony is our sole purpose. My favorite memory of using music as a missionary tool is from some presentations in the Atlanta, GA area in 2005. We happened to be performing in a stake where I served as a young missionary in the 80s. Just a few short years removed from the revelation on the priesthood, missionaries struggled mightily in efforts to teach and retain our African American brothers and sisters. Sometimes, we struggled even more getting the existing members to accept these new converts and wondered at whether the early saints gave similar resistance to Peter’s revelation allowing the word to be taught to gentiles.

I remember rejoicing as I walked onto the stage to see the congregation filled with as many dark as light skinned faces. I was overcome with emotion, though, as we sang a particular song where choir members one by one stand to show their unity in the gospel message. As we stood, one by one, members of the audience stood with us until all present were on their feet showing a unity in our faith in the same God. I had only dreamed as a young missionary of a day when an LDS church in Atlanta would be filled with people of different color in harmony. I remarked to the Mission President that night that I thought we were part of something that made a bigger difference in two nights than I did as a missionary in two years. He corrected me and said that it made more of a difference in two nights than his entire mission hoped to make in two years. We have since heard of hundreds of baptisms resulting from those firesides where neighbors introduced friends to the Spirit of God. I love being able to do missionary work with the musical gifts God has given me.

© Julie Keyser

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