In Faculty and Staff, School of Music

Bastian made a marimba recording from his home to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s First Vision

School of Music professor Darren Bastian performs on marimba. (Darren Bastian)

While social distancing has presented plenty of challenges over the last few months, it has also opened the door for exploring and expressing creativity in unexpected ways. For BYU School of Music professor Darren Bastian, it meant recording a traditional Latter-day Saint hymn on a less traditional instrument: the marimba.

As both a musician and educator, Bastian wanted to do something special to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of the First Vision. “Leading up to [April 2020] General Conference, there was a great focus on the bicentennial of the Restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith,” Bastian said. “I thought I would like to make some kind of offering to celebrate.”

He chose the beloved hymn “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer,” based on a guitar arrangement by Latter-day Saint musician Michael Dowdle. Bastian had arranged the music years earlier, but had never recorded it. After receiving permission from Dowdle, he decided to take the plunge. “I created the marimba version by listening to his recording and transcribing it,” Bastian said. “I had to make some minor adjustments, but most of the music fit my instrument well. I have always loved Dowdle’s recordings and arrangements of hymns.”

Bastian has performed with many celebrated ensembles, including the Utah Symphony, Ballet West Orchestra and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. But his years of performing never involved creating a professional quality recording from home. To prepare, he took LinkedIn Learning courses on recording and video editing software such as Adobe Audition and Premiere Pro.

“The COVID-19 outbreak spurred me to learn some needed skills to make this kind of video,” he said. “I bought a new camera that I can use for streaming or recording. It’s something that I probably would not have gotten around to if the pandemic had not happened.”

Bastian hopes to have the marimba arrangement published soon. He would also like to include the piece in an album of marimba music inspired by the guitar, alongside other songs he has completed or is still working on.

“Before now, I have been primarily the performer and not focused on these other aspects of making music, but it has been really good for me,” he said. “I will definitely keep using these skills in both my teaching and my own creation.”

Music has served as a lifeline to normalcy and hope for many people during the quarantine. Bastian believes his contribution could facilitate a similar connection.

“I think it will mostly speak to Latter-day Saints who are familiar with the story of Joseph Smith and the Restoration, but perhaps it can also be something that leads people to inquire about the Church of Jesus Christ,” Bastian said. “I feel love and gratitude for the Restoration of the gospel, and I hoped to convey that. If somehow people can get a glimpse of my testimony through this performance, I would be very pleased.”

Watch Bastian’s marimba recording below:

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