By Cecily Markland
The story of Kristen Hooker’s 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—it all ended much too soon.
Kristen died in a motorcycle accident July 10, 2004, just eight days after her 20th birthday.
Yet, today, in many ways, Kristen’s music lives on. Her hopes and dreams and her influence on others are more alive, bigger and more impactful than ever.
Much of that influence is the result of the Red Note Foundation, an organization founded by her parents, Ken and Ramona Hooker, members of the Gilbert 9th Ward, Gilbert Val Vista Stake, and sister, Shelbey, who shared a special closeness with Kristen.
The website at www.RedNoteFoundation.org, states, “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.”
“We wanted to put something together that honored her,” Ken says. “She had the ability to help others and she used music as the primary way to connect with others on a soul-to-soul level.”
Kristen began her music education playing the flute in the Pioneer Elementary School band. In the eighth grade, she tried the bassoon. “Kristen liked anything that was different and unique,” Ken said.
She readily took to this new instrument, and began amassing awards and recognition. Among many other honors Kristen earned, she was one of 76 musicians from across the nation selected to participate in the National Wind Ensemble and to play the bassoon at Carnegie Hall; 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 also used her music to lift and to serve others. 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 Rosie’s House, a music academy for children in inner-city Phoenix
Music was also a profoundly spiritual experience for Kristen. Music increased her faith and she felt she was worshipping God by playing well.
“Kristen’s motivation in life and Kristen’s love for music is something we just can’t lose,” Shelbey said. “Red Note Foundation started as a healing process for us, but we soon realized it was something more.”
The “more” was demonstrated as Red Note Foundation hosted its first fundraising event, a Christmas concert at the Mesa Arts Center, complete with an orchestra and choir. “So many of those who participated knew and loved Kristen—and had played with her at Highland High School and elsewhere—and were happy with the opportunity to remember her in this way,” Ken says.
The vision for Red Note Foundation has continued to expand so, in addition to providing scholarships for musicians, the foundation looks to take what they to do the next level.
“There are so many organizations out there that do a wonderful job, we want to support and collaborate with others to further music education in whatever ways we can,” Ken says.
Last year, the Christmas concert not only raised scholarship money, they were able to donate the first of three bassoons to Rosie’s House.
In their continuing efforts to increase their influence and service, Red Note Foundation is looking to expand its team of volunteers, including filling a number of positions that are listed on the website. Later this summer, they also will be looking for musicians and choir members for their November 30 concert.
To learn more about Kristen and about the Red Note Foundation, including how to participate, how to donate, or how to get ongoing updates, visit www.rednotefoundation.org.
“I always viewed Kristen as having a plan, of moving forward with a plan,” said Ken. “For me, Red Note Foundation is a way to honor her and to continue her plan.”