AMERICAN FORK, Utah — Talk about your long-distance commute.
Check out John Pew's.
Pew is the musical director of the (Mormon) Temple Hill Symphony Orchestra.
The problem is that the orchestra is based in Oakland, Calif., and Pew currently lives with his family in American Fork, Utah.
That's a fair distance.
But he loves his dream job, so he willingly and routinely gets on a plane most weekends and flies 586 miles to San Jose, Calif., rents a car and drives to the Thursday night and Saturday morning rehearsals in Oakland. On concert weekends, he stays through until Sunday night.
"I do this for my love of music and for my love of the gospel," Pew said. "I don't see it as a great sacrifice. This is just an unbelievable opportunity."
Pew started with the orchestra in 2003 after he'd been working with the Oakland Temple musical pageant for a couple of years before it was canceled. He was invited to lead the orchestra by those who had seen him work with the pit orchestra with the pageant.
He was living in San Jose at the time, so the hour's drive to rehearsals wasn't a problem.
Then in 2005, the family decided to move to Utah.
"I didn't want to give it up," Pew said, "We were getting ready for a concert so I said I'd come back and conduct at least for that. It worked out well, so I've just kept doing it."
The rehearsal schedule maximizes Pew's time with the musicians and minimizes the demands on Pew.
Pew flies in early Thursday mornings, goes to work at his computer job in San Jose, rehearses that evening, works Friday, rehearses Saturday morning and is home again Saturday afternoon — in time to take care of his duties Sunday as first counselor in the bishopric of the American Fork 37th Ward.
It costs him about $350 each trip because he can stay with his sister most nights and save on motel rooms. He then only has to pay for round-trip airfare, a rental car, meals and gas.
When the orchestra is prepping for a concert, that means an average of eight rehearsals and four trips plus another trip for the performances.
Pew is happy and amazed at how well the commute plan has worked.
"I kept the orchestra and I kept my job," he said. "I don't have any plans to stop. I'm just thoroughly enjoying it."
The Temple Hill Symphony Orchestra has 52 members, one-third of whom are not LDS.
They've existed as an organization for 25 years and are going on tour for the first time this summer. Their schedule includes three stops in Utah in July: at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on July 17 at 7:30 p.m., in Ogden at the amphitheater at 2949 Washington Blvd. on July 18 at 7:30 p.m. and in American Fork at the amphitheater west of the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple on July 19 at 7 p.m.
All of the concerts are free.
The orchestra is a non-profit organization sponsored in part by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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