Anna and Alexandra Hoopes, 12 and 10 years old, have played their violins for the dean of Juilliard. They have performed at the Minnesota governor's mansion and won awards throughout the state. They recently performed with the Minnesota Orchestra on it's 100th anniversary.
But their brightest moment came last Christmas while performing for children with leukemia.
They stood in the hallway of the leukemia unit at the local hospital and played while sick children some so ill their faces were swollen and their hair was falling out watched and listened from behind the glass walls of their sterile rooms. Performing with his sisters was 8-year-old Chad, who also plays the violin.
That day, while playing traditional Christmas music, Anna and Alexandra recognized a face in the windows: a little girl from their school. "We didn't know she was in that unit," Brenda Hoopes, the young performers' mother, recalled during a telephone interview. "Her mother later approached us at school and thanked the kids for bringing a light at such a hard time. That was a neat thing."
Those are the rewarding moments, she said, when the children recognize that music is a gift for those performing and, especially, for those listening. It is what she hoped for when she and her husband, Preston Hoopes, of the Lakeville Ward, Burnsville Minnesota Stake, started the children in music lessons about the same time they were learning the alphabet. They've been expressing themselves with the violin since the time Sister Hoopes helped the girls, when Anna was 5 and Alexandra was 3, choose the instrument of their choice. "It wasn't very long before the girls were begging for violins," Sister Hoopes said, adding that when Chad was 3, he also chose the violin because "he wanted to be like his sisters."
Those early days of lessons and scratchy notes have certainly paid off. Anna took first place for her age group in the 2001 Minnesota String and Orchestra Teachers Association's competition. This year, Alexandra took first-place overall in the Minnesota Sinfonia's Young Artist String Competition. She performed senior-level repertoire in the junior division. The year before, she won first-place in the Northwestern College String Festival in St. Paul in 2001. At age 6, she won her division in a competition at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and the next year, she won the elementary division of the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teachers Association's competition.
Chad has not competed yet, but all three children have performed twice at the governor's mansion, and the Minnesota Orchestra invited the threesome to perform at this year's state fair for the orchestra's anniversary. The girls recently performed at Ottawa University near Kansas City, Mo., for Steven Clapp, the dean of Juilliard.
But that's not why the children began music lessons, Sister Hoopes emphasized. "I don't want them to be something I want them to be. I want them to just have the music. It's a gift no one can take away from them. From our perspective, it's eternal. I want them to enjoy the whole scope of the music. I want them to share with and serve other people and bring them joy with the music."
That desire has brought balance to the Hoopes household, despite two hours of daily practice after family scripture study and breakfast, and two trips to lessons weekly.
"I am enjoying every minute of it," Sister Hoopes said of chauffeuring her children to and from lessons and recitals. "It's hard and I'm tired, but I'm enjoying it because I don't have very much time with my kids. These years are not mine. They are my family's. I find joy in that. It's fulfilling to me. I'm experiencing a lot of joy with them. I get to go places and do things I wouldn't have done if it weren't for these kids playing music."
Music is not all the children do. Anna, Alexandra and Chad also love soccer and Rollerblades. Alexandra loves to garden with her mother, and Anna likes to cook. She also plays the French horn in the school band, and Chad plays the piano.
"Our kids are really close friends," Sister Hoopes said. "They have built such a strong rapport with each other. I think the music has helped, but the gospel has helped. The knowledge of eternal families has helped them be close as siblings."
They love seeing that joy on others' faces. Sister Hoopes recalled how one year they played at a center for the birthday of a 90-year-old. "There was a man sitting beside me who had had a stroke," Sister Hoopes recalled. "He just cried. All he could do was put his hand on my arm. He wept and was so moved by the music. It's those opportunities that has brought us joy. Everything else is secondary."
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