For Sister Marsie Trego of Mesa, Arizona, receiving a call to serve meant both wearing a black name tag and bringing her trombone.
Trego was called as a young performing missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, this summer, and that meant her trombone would be an essential piece of equipment in serving the Lord.
In the fall of 2013, Trego, then a student at Brigham Young University in Provo, heard about the opportunity to serve in the YPM program.
“I was hanging in the lobby of my college dorm when I overheard a girl talking about the Young Performing Missionaries in Nauvoo,” Trego said. “Missionaries whose main job is to sing or play an instrument? It sounded interesting.”
Intrigued by the opportunity to travel, serve in Nauvoo and keep up her trombone-playing skills, Trego auditioned by first sending in a DVD.
“Over Christmas break we had callback auditions, and I went to Salt Lake to audition in person,” Trego said. “That night, they called me to tell me I had made it, and to start preparing to spend my summer in Nauvoo.”
There have been young performing missionaries for more than 25 years, but in the past five years the talents of these special Mormon missionaries has been tapped more intensely as they share the gospel in Nauvoo.
“The first YPMs were called to perform in a nightly variety show and only had one performance per day,” said Bill Murset, the YPM coordinator. “(Now) band YPMs routinely perform six to eight hours per day; stage missionaries perform eight to 10 hours per day, presenting six different shows daily.”
The many hours spent playing the trombone were often difficult, Trego said.
“We have roughly 70 tunes to learn, and 12 of those are to be memorized,” Trego wrote home early on in her four-month mission. “Already we have played through all but 10 or so of our songs, and halfway memorized six or seven songs."
The YPM band members generally perform as the Nauvoo Brass Band. The original Nauvoo Brass Band was organized in 1842 when the LDS Church was headquartered there, according to lds.org.
In 2003, the group was revived using the young performing missionaries. And, just like the original band, they perform in public concerts and other special events. Band members also participate in the Nauvoo Pageant and work as guides at historic sites.
For some performances, the Nauvoo Brass Band is pulled by a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Nauvoo.
“That’s where we spend most of our time,” noted Trego in a letter home. “I never thought that I’d spend my summer on an actual, literal bandwagon, pulled by horses through a tiny town in Illinois.”
Although more than 250 applicants audition and apply each year, usually only about 40 YPM calls are issued. Those include stage, technical support and band missionaries.
“In addition to helping the history, stories and spirit of Nauvoo come to life for the guests and providing wonderful entertainment, performing missionaries can touch the hearts and souls of guests in ways that straight preaching or proselyting often can’t,” Murset said.
Trego saw this firsthand: “It is amazing what we can accomplish as missionaries because of the strength the Lord gives us, the time and dedication we put in, and the teamwork and cooperation we have,” she said.
On her blog at thenauvoobandwagon.wordpress.com, she wrote, “My new favorite scripture is D&C 29:4, ‘Verily, I say unto you that ye are chosen out of the world to declare my gospel with the sound of rejoicing, as with the voice of a trump.’ I love it because it is so applicable to what I am doing here this summer.”
Trego’s mother, Melinda, saw tremendous growth over the four months of service.
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“Marsie came home caring more about others, more about her ancestors and more about the gospel," Melinda said. "She left hoping to be kept busy playing and keep up her trombone playing. She returned with much more.”
Nauvoo Productions is currently accepting applications for summer 2015. The YPM opportunity is open to young men and women, ages 18 to 25. See historicnauvoo.net/participate/ypm for the application and more information about young performing missionaries.
Rebecca Irvine is the author of "MTC at Home" (Covenant, 2014) and "Follow the Prophets" (Covenant, 2013). She is also a friend of Marsie Trego's family.