Encore Spring 2024

Young Ambassadors

The Healing Power of the Arts

Young Ambassadors performer Riley Holmes poses with an audience member.

In 2018, a devastating wildfire tore through Paradise, California. Over 90 percent of the buildings in Paradise were destroyed and 85 people lost their lives.

On the five-year anniversary of the fire, the BYU Young Ambassadors performed for the people of Paradise. The performers witnessed many joyful reunions before the show. Kersee Whitney, a member of the Young Ambassadors, says, “We had to delay the show for 10 minutes because our performance brought people together who hadn’t seen each other in a long time because of the terrible fires, and they were all talking, hugging, and catching up in the foyer. Music and performing is a wonderful way to bring people together.”

Young Ambassadors performers (left to right) Johnathan Tanner, Caler Tregeagle, Mariel Alexander, and Mikenzie Moon (far right) and director Nathan Balser greet an audience member in Paradise, California.

After the show, the students got to know their audience on a personal level. “The top spiritual experience I had on tour was listening to the faith of the Saints in Paradise who had been affected by the wildfire,” says an anonymous member of the Young Ambassadors. “I was overwhelmed with joy and with compassion for these people who just had so much love and faith.”

While on tour, the ensemble held several workshops for children and high school students. These workshops provided opportunities for aspiring performing artists to hone their craft and also provided opportunities for the Young Ambassadors to share the gospel.

A youth group in Sacramento, California, poses with Young Ambassadors performers Tavita Ah Loe (top center), Bryndal Braithwaite, and Gabrielle McCarter.

“It was powerful to testify while on tour,” Young Ambassadors member JRay Kuhn says. “I was asked to share my story at one of our workshops and felt the Spirit fill my mouth with the words that needed to be said to the youth in that moment. As someone who has struggled spiritually at BYU, this served as a huge reminder that I’m a tool in God’s hands.”

Whitney is also grateful to share her talents. “Singing and dancing can be considered a really self-centered art form. But the Young Ambassadors taught me that it’s more about giving to other people and sharing your light,” she says. “The arts can be such a great connective tool.”

The Young Ambassadors gathers with the participants of a four-stake youth activity in Northern California.

In May 2024, the Young Ambassadors will share BYU’s light in China on an extended tour.

The Young Ambassadors cast takes a selfie outside a church building in Northern California.