Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Up with People

I wasn't a member of Up With People, but a school friend was—Jon Tsosie. His sister, Betty, had been, too, and they toured once and stayed on Mackinaw Island in Michigan. Jon told me it was the most beautful place he had ever seen and he wanted to go back and live there.

Years later, I met (and later married) Keith Dodd, who had been in a local Sing-Out group in Alamogordo. They went on a road trip once to a gathering, convention, or something. He wasn't in a touring group of Up With People, but it seemed all to be the same thing, somehow, musically and as to focus and intention.

The other day in a moment of curiosity, I looked up to see whether the group was related to the Mormon Church. That would not have surprised me, because Jon's involvement started when he lived in in Utah—I don't remember now which suburb of SLC, and he and Betty were recruited as Native American cast members. There were other Indian kids, too.
Jon, middle of five; Betty not appearing in this photo.


By the time I knew Jon after he had moved to Santa Clara (where his mom had grown up), the Up With People participation had come and gone (maybe partly because he was not in Utah anymore—I didn't think to ask more).

It wasn't Mormon, but there was a religious seed, according to this article:
The Hidden Story Of The Up With People Singers. From that article:
Up With People emerged from the controversial religious movement Moral Re-Armament (MRA)—a cult-like organization that preached honesty, purity, unselfishness and love—so it’s no surprise that the groups bore more than a passing similarity. In fact, Up With People founder J. Blanton Belk was heir apparent to Peter D. Howard, a British journalist who succeeded Frank Buchman as MRA’s leader in 1961. But Belk broke away to incorporate Up With People as a non-profit after President Dwight Eisenhower urged him to distance himself from the dreary image of MRA.

Whatever started it, both Jon and Keith really liked the songs they learned, and they got to travel because of it, too.

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