Symphony of One


Ever since he was a child, Zack Clark heard music in his heart. But it was through obedience that he learned to hear the music in his soul.

The first time Zack Clark of Phoenix, Arizona, played the cello, magic happened. His fingers pressed awkwardly upon the neck of the instrument as he pulled the bow across the strings. He was nine then and the notes he played were simple. But as the cello replied in its raspy baritone, Zack’s heart resonated to the sound. He had played with toy instruments as a child, but his sister Maegan played a real cello, and when he followed her example, it unlocked an inner symphony, a melody so complex and sweet he yearned to hear it again and to share it with others.

He quickly learned, however, that the notes of such a symphony do not migrate from the mind to the fingers without hard work. Under the guidance of a teacher who saw his potential, Zack was soon devoting four to seven hours each day to practice, immersing himself in a demanding discipline. He became principal cellist of school orchestras, the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, and the Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra. At 14 he was named All-State cellist and performed solo at Arizona State University. He was invited to the World Cello Conference and was principal chair at major music camps including Brevard and Tanglewood. With his high school orchestra, he played at Carnegie Hall in New York City. At 18 he was selected principal cellist for the National High School Honors Orchestra. He auditioned for and received instruction from some of the best cellists in the world.

Music wasn’t everything, though. He had rhythm on a skateboard and an aptitude for folding origami birds. He remembered the birthdays of his family and friends, and he volunteered at a museum. Like many musicians, he was also good at math and found he could make most computer software sing. As a freshman at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, he began a double degree program in cello performance and computer engineering.

But it was while playing the cello that he could hear the symphony in his heart, and he kept perfecting his performance so that those listening could hear it too. And now as he performed, in the back of his mind he kept hearing another theme, quiet but constant. It sang of restoration, truth, angels, and light, of prophets, revelation, and the Holy Ghost. And even though his love of music had already filled him with a personal symphony, this new refrain brought clarity and fire to his soul. It reminded him of a favorite song:

We are as the army of Helaman.
We have been taught in our youth.
And we will be the Lord’s missionaries
To bring the world his truth.

(“We’ll Bring the World His Truth,” Children’s Songbook, 172)

The symphony in his heart was swelling, and as he heard the music in his soul, he knew the time for a full-time mission had come.

Many at school thought Zack was crazy. Other students studying with the same teacher had graduated to become the principal or assistant principal cellist with symphonies in Chicago and Seattle. Was Zack now abandoning a similar future for a strange cause?

It wasn’t strange to Zack. “For my entire life I’ve wanted to go on a mission,” he said. “It’s not a sacrifice, because I know I’ll be blessed. I keep thinking of the power of that phrase—‘to bring the world his truth.’ Sure, I’m setting aside the cello for two years, but I know it’s what the Lord wants me to do.”

Soon he received his call to the Scotland Edinburgh Mission, and as he read the letter from the prophet, the symphony sounded again. This time the melody reminded him of the Savior. “When you study music, you always want to learn from a master, someone with a higher knowledge than you,” Zack said. “As I read my call to serve, I realized that on my mission I would be serving the true Master, and that in His service, there is always much to learn.”

These refrains were also familiar—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, obedience to the commandments, gospel study, service to others, sharing the truth. They were the themes of his life.

Today, as Elder Zack Clark is serving faithfully in Kirkcaldy, on the east coast of Scotland facing the North Sea, his personal symphony continues. Elder Clark and his companion, Elder Stoddard, just taught a husband and wife who both chose to be baptized. “If you want to hear music in your soul,” Elder Clark says, “just share the gospel. Watch someone embrace it, and as they learn and grow, the melody in your own heart will be sweet.”

Zack’s Favorite Scripture

“In the Book of Mormon there’s a scripture I just can’t get out of my head. Moroni has been addressing the unbelievers. He confirms that there is a God; he says that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; that miracles were done in ancient times and still are done today. All of that is very logical. Then there’s this statement in Mormon 9:21: ‘Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him.’

“To me that scripture says that if you are righteous and have unwavering faith in the Lord, He’ll do anything for you if it is according to His will. On my mission, if He needs me to move a mountain to find somebody, I’ll be able to do that because of Him. When I get back, if He really wants me to play my cello again, then He’ll allow me—with the right determination—to get back in shape with my instrument.”

The Barefoot Symphony for Shoes

Imagine a concert featuring 20 of the best young musicians in a major metropolitan area, all performing barefoot! That’s what happened during Zack Clark’s Eagle Scout service project. He organized a concert to benefit children in need of footwear, and the musicians decided to emphasize the point by going without shoes or socks while they were on stage.

Admission to the concert was a pair of new shoes or socks, and 235 pairs of socks, 91 pairs of shoes, and other articles of clothing were donated for a local children’s home. Scouts from Zack’s troop distributed flyers promoting the event, served as ushers, prepared snacks, set up for the concert, and delivered items to the shelter, contributing more than 700 hours of service.

Music in Your Muscles

By studying music, Zack learned something that is now helping him in the mission field.

“Hard work is the key,” he says. “In music, you work on techniques and basics. Through practice and repetition, you learn obedience. You rehearse so much that when you perform, musicians say, ‘You have the music in your muscles.’ That means you’ve studied it so much it just pours out of you; you’re free to do your best. It’s the same way with the gospel. You study until you are so full that the Spirit can guide you to say the right things. Then when you teach, you know what to say.”

To hear Zack in performance, go to www.newera.lds.org, and click on the link.

[photos] Photographs by Richard M. Romney and courtesy of the Clark family

[photos] Zack is impressed with what he learns by studying the scriptures (above). At a young age (below, right) he found it’s similar with music: “You always want to learn from a master, someone with a higher knowledge than you.” Such study, along with practice (far right), makes him a master cello player.

[photos] Music isn’t Zack’s only interest. He loves yo-yos, Rubik’s Cube, and his mom and dad. He remembers finding peace at the Mesa Arizona Temple (far right), the same peace he carries with him today as a missionary in Scotland (bottom right) and that he and his companion shared with a man who was baptized (page 22).