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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Reid Cornish throws his head back and clinches his fists at the completion of his daily, morning in-line skating performance in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — We met a lot of wonderful people this year.

Paring down the lengthy list of inspiring, talented Utahns our arts and entertainment team profiled this year to just 13 was no easy task, so we included a few honorable mentions for good measure, just to make sure you get another chance to get to know them. Read on to meet (or re-meet) some of our favorite local superstars.

The ‘Rollerblade King’

Reid Cornish loves the soundtrack to “The Greatest Showman,” but for many people in downtown Salt Lake City, Cornish is the greatest showman.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Reid Cornish dances in place during his daily, morning in-line skating performance in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.

Our profile on Cornish, an avid skater who calls himself the "Rollerblade King," was one of our sweetest stories of 2018. Weekday mornings find 34-year-old Cornish, who has Down syndrome, passionately skating in a parking lot while singing out loud to Hugh Jackman.

“I’m like a figure skater,” he said. “I picture myself on ice doing dance moves from musicals. … Skating makes me happy all the time.”

It makes us happy, too.

Read the story here.

‘The Greatest Showman’

Provided by Loren Allred
Utah singer Loren Allred with actor Hugh Jackman, who plays P.T. Barnum in the film "The Greatest Showman."

Speaking of “The Greatest Showman,” meet Loren Allred, the subject of our most-read story this year and the vocalist behind the intense ballad “Never Enough.” In January, the former Murray resident told us “The Greatest Showman” has been a game-changer for her career.

Read the story here.

Allred isn’t the only Utah connection to “The Greatest Showman.” Southern Utah University graduate Keala Settle stars as Lettie Lutz (aka the Bearded Lady) in the musical film. We spoke with Settle’s father about his daughter’s rise to fame.

Read the story here.

The man keeping Utah jazz alive

Meet Joe McQueen, a 99½-year-old sassy tenor saxophonist who’s talked tempo changes with Charlie Parker and was a close friend of Count Basie’s. He's also a jazz fixture in Utah and keeps a busy performing schedule. We spoke with him right before his 99th birthday, and he had one message in particular he wanted to get across: As long as he’s alive, jazz music is here to stay.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Saxophone player Joe McQueen, still going strong as he nears his 99th birthday, Joe adjusts his horn at his Ogden home on Saturday, May 26, 2018.

Read the story here.

Utah’s prolific romance novelist

Author RaeAnne Thayne has written more than 60 novels, and while her romance stories often have happy endings, she doesn’t exactly have the art form down to a science.

“Every book is harder than the one before,” she said. “And you’d think that after 60 books you’d figure it out, but every book is honestly harder. I did every easy idea that I had in probably my first 20 or 30 books.”

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Utah romance novelist RaeAnne Thayne poses for photos prior to an interview in Salt Lake City on Oct. 2, 2018.

The romance novelist from Smithfield, Cache County, visited us this year to talk about her career and how her personal life has shaped the stories she writes.

Read the story here.

From the NFL to the opera house

Ta’u Pupu’a's family immigrated from Tonga to Salt Lake City. When injuries cut his NFL career short, Pupu’a decided to honor his family's sacrifice by packing his bags and moving to New York City to pursue something he had loved his entire life: singing. For Pupu’a, a former defensive end, nailing every note in an aria is just as thrilling as a quarterback sack. Our in-depth feature on Pupu’a chronicles his incredible rise from Tonga to the NFL to the opera house.

Provided by Ta'u Pupu'a
Ta'u Pupu'a at a Cleveland Browns practice, left, and as Pollione in the opera "Norma."

Read the story here.

'80s rockers in Utah

David Bergman, www.DavidBergman.net
Bon Jovi bassist Hugh McDonald at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, on the "This House is Not For Sale" tour on Feb. 19, 2017.

Sometimes you start out pursuing one story and then end up with a completely different (and even better) one. That’s the case with Hugh McDonald, longtime bassist for Bon Jovi. Thanks to my husband, a diehard Bon Jovi fan, I learned that McDonald lives near Park City. Even though I had already interviewed other Bon Jovi members, I decided to reach out to McDonald.

It ended up being the better story. We spoke with McDonald about becoming an “official” member of Bon Jovi in 2016 and Jon Bon Jovi's big push this year to have McDonald included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with the original Bon Jovi members.

Read the story here.

Speaking of '80s rockers who live in Utah, we also spoke with Graham Russell of Air Supply and visited his home in Kamas — a 1,120-acre property complete with a recording studio, greenhouse and garden.

Read the story here.

Meeting the Utah Symphony

It’s been three years since violinist Madeline Adkins auditioned for the Utah Symphony in her sweatpants, thanks to her luggage not surviving the flight to Salt Lake City.

Adkins joined the symphony in September 2016 as concertmaster. We spoke with the violinist, the youngest of eight children, about her upbringing in Texas, her time with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and her journey to Utah.

Cassidy DuHon
Madeline Adkins joined the Utah Symphony as concertmaster in September 2016.

Read the story here.

We also got to meet four other Utah Symphony members this year. While none of them auditioned in their sweatpants, we promise these musicians’ stories come with their own interesting twists and turns.

Read the story here.

The new Tabernacle organist

Brian Mathias made his Tabernacle organ debut for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on March 11, and for someone who grew up in Minneapolis listening to “Music and the Spoken Word” on the radio, the performance was the fulfillment of a longtime dream.

Read the story here.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Tabernacle organist Brian Mathias plays with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during Music and the Spoken Word in Salt Lake City on Sunday, March 11, 2018.

Mathias wasn't the only Temple Square musician we got to know this year. We also profiled renowned violinist Igor Gruppman, the longtime principal conductor of the Orchestra at Temple Square, detailing his journey from Kiev, Ukraine, to the heart of Salt Lake City.

Read the story here.

Joining the Killers

Becoming a Killer was surprisingly simple for Provo-based musician Robbie Connolly. He submitted a smartphone video of himself playing some Killers songs on guitar, and he was in the band a few months later. Connolly has been backing up Brandon Flowers since September 2017, and we spoke with him just a few months into his career as a Killer. His first tour — which included a stop in Salt Lake City in February 2018 — kicked off just two weeks after his wife, artist Caitlin Connolly, gave birth to twin boys.

Rob Loud, Provided by Robbie Connolly
Provo-based musician Robbie Connolly has been a backing musician for The Killers since September 2017.

Read the story here.

A passionate greeter

Jessica Smith is Hale Centre Theatre's most dedicated greeter. Born with a rare multisystem disorder called Kabuki syndrome, Smith's passion for theater shines as she helps direct arts patrons to the right theater and answers any questions they may have. Smith began as an intern in 2014, but the experience went so well the theater brought her on as an official employee. Now, the theater is her second home.

“Everyone there is like family," she said. "I’ll probably work there for the rest of my life.”

James Wooldridge, Deseret News
Jessica Smith, right, directs Jen Holzer to the theater while working as a greeter at Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy on June 21, 2018. Smith has Kabuki syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.

Read the story here.

A professional volunteer

Randy Blackburn is a professional artist so passionate about theater that for the past 10 years he’s been volunteering as the set builder for the Lehi High School Theater Department. Blackburn told us he spends thousands of hours per year volunteering for the theater department. He’s built 31 of the high school’s theater sets — all for free — and his latest one was his most impressive one to date.

Qiling Wang, Deseret News
Professional artist Randy Blackburn has built 31 of Lehi High School's theater sets for free. Blackburn has been volunteering as the set builder for the Lehi High School Theater Department for 10 years.

Read the story here.

A silent film icon-turned-Egyptologist

Provided by Utah Museum of Fine Art
"Natacha Rambova," by James Edward Abbe, 1920s, gelatin silver print, gift of Natacha Rambova, UMFA 1996.004.003

Salt Lake City native Natacha Rambova was one of the most fascinating individuals we profiled this year. Long before donating more than 300 ancient artifacts to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Rambova, a self-taught Egyptologist, was a glamour icon of the 1920s, a ballerina and the wife of megastar Rudolph Valentino. Born in 1897 as Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy, she was also the great-granddaughter of Heber C. Kimball, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Read the story here.

Reality TV

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Although rising country star and Sandy native Savannah Keyes appeared last month on the new reality TV show "Real Country," her big TV debut was actually seven years ago on “The Ellen Show” when she was 13. The country singer got a record deal at 13 and moved to Nashville when she was 16, but she still considers Utah home.

Read the story here.

Keyes wasn't the only Utah talent featured on reality shows this year — the Beehive State has a large presence in these competitions. We also spoke with Springville dance duo Charity and Andres, which placed third on this year's “World of Dance” competition, and the Salt Lake husband-and-wife trapeze act Duo Transcend, which placed in the Top 10 on this season of “America's Got Talent.”

Quinton Cook
Utah native Savannah Keyes was one of 21 artists selected to be on USA Network's reality TV show "Real Country."