Music plays on in honor of Kristen Hooker - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Music plays on in honor of Kristen Hooker

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Cecily Markland has more than 20 years experience as an editor, writer, project manager and journalist. A Mesa resident, she is the managing editor for The Beehive newspaper, serving Arizona’s LDS community, and a regular contributor to the East Valley Tribune.

Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 10:15 am | Updated: 2:46 pm, Wed Nov 13, 2013.

Who says that when our life is over that we’re forgotten, that our music dies?

Not so, if that person is former Highland High School student Kristen Hooker, whose hopes, dreams, cheerfulness and beautiful music live on in the hearts and lives of many.

The story of her life is filled with music, celebration, and service and with family, friends and fun. It contains chapters laced with giddiness; illustrated with vivid touches of her favorite color, red; orchestrated to the tunes of the bassoon that she played so beautifully; and punctuated with poignant demonstrations of devotion. It’s rich and interesting and inspiring.

Still, for all who knew her well — and even for those who only briefly met her — Kristen Hooker’s story ended much too soon.

Kristen died in a motorcycle accident on July 10, 2004, just eight days after her 20th birthday.

Yet, the concerto she composed in that short time has touched many.

Witnesses are the 800 who attended her funeral, the 300 sympathy cards and nearly 200 email tributes her family received. Contributions to the scholarship fund established in her name also illustrate that, in many ways, Kristen’s music will go on.

Enter into evidence, as well, her “Happy Book.” For several years, Kristen kept a “Happy Book.” Daily, whether her day had been good or bad, she listed things that had made her happy that day. This concept is part of her legacy in a sense, as many have started their own Happy Books since learning of Kristen’s practice.

And, always, the music. From the Highland High music program, she went on: she played the bassoon at Carnegie Hall, one of 76 musicians from across the nation selected to participate in the Fifth Annual National Wind Ensemble; she played for three years with the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra; was a member of the Arizona Mormon Choir and Orchestra; and earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Arizona.

She played at numerous church meetings and community functions, often accompanied by her father; and she went to elementary schools to teach young people about the bassoon, and once volunteered at Rosa House, a nonprofit organization that shares music with less fortunate children.

Now, her parents, Ramona and Ken Hooker, and her sister Shelbey, who shared a special closeness with Kristen, have found another way to do what Kristen would have done — something that has a lot to do with music, and much more to do with joy. As if moved by the notes they always hear, they started The Red Note Foundation.

The website,, states, “The Red Note Foundation was formed to continue what Kristen started: Serving her fellow man, beautifying the world with music, and honoring her God through service, and self-improvement.”

Their first event — naturally, will include many of the musicians Kristen knew and loved and played with — including her teachers and Gilbert high school friends.

Oh, and because Kristen loved red, and Christmas — naturally, the event had to be a “Festival of Carols” Christmas concert. The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2 at the Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.

To learn how to participate, donate, or for tickets, visit

To learn more about Kristen, visit the website as well. Or, just listen. Her music is still playing loud and clear.

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