Jenna Baker has gone through many struggles throughout her life, including losing all of her hair by 7th grade and being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2010, but music is what gets her through trials.
From the time she was a young girl, Jenna Baker, a junior from Washington, D.C., majoring in commercial recreation, loved music. She even learned to whistle and hum before she could talk.
Over the years, Baker has had an abundance of medical challenges. When she was 11, Baker’s mom was brushing her hair and noticed a bald patch the size of a quarter on her head. Baker went to the doctor and was diagnosed with alopecia universalis, a skin disease resulting in the loss of all body hair. A couple months into 7th grade, all of her hair was gone.
“That was hard because, starting middle school, it’s hard to be different and people were cruel,” Baker said. “But I knew who I was, I knew there was a reason I was going through this trial. I tried to look at the positives, I tried to find joy in the journey and I think it has shaped who I am today because it led me to be a more optimistic person and appreciate the little things in life.”
Baker has continued to share her optimism at BYU with her professors and friends.
Peter Ward, Baker’s former professor, who teaches recreation management and youth leadership classes, said she is a remarkable student who has influenced those around her.
Ward taught a nature photography class Baker was in and found she highly influenced students when they went on a backpacking field trip.
“We had some students that were complaining, but she never complained,” Baker said. “She wasn’t the fastest one there, that wasn’t the purpose of the trip, but they could tell, ‘here’s a girl who has health issues. If she can do it, I can do it. I’m tired and she’s tired and she’s not complaining, so I think I can do it.’ She was role modeling it in a very silent way of not complaining and just sticking with it, her sticktoitiveness.”
Ward said Baker keeps a positive outlook on life and is enthusiastic about reaching her goals despite all she goes through.
Ethan Watts, photographer from E.Watts Photography, met Baker his freshman year of college. Baker was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to spend much time in the hospital, but Watts said she continued to be optimistic.
“Especially with the brain tumor experience, you never heard her complain, she named her tumor Winifred,” Watts said. “There were times she was down, she would come to me for advice and whatnot, but she always seemed to be optimistic and have faith. She never once said ‘I’m gonna die,’ she always knew she would be fine.”
Watts said Baker tries to do everything and succeeds.
“She’s very eclectic in her traits, she does all sorts of things. She wants to be the social person with everyone, be the straight A student, do all the extracurricular activities, she manages a lot on her plate,” Watts said.
Baker said, along with the love and support from her friends and family, music has helped her get through her trials. Whether it is live music, playlists she has created, or her own compositions, she feels it is a great way to express her emotions.
When Baker first came to BYU, she continued to seek out music as a support. Baker went to Muse Music Café to see the local bands and was introduced to the band J.Wride her freshman year. Jesse Wride, the lead singer, had served his mission in her home ward. Baker has become close to the band and tries to advertise as much as she can for them.
“I do what I can because they’re such amazing musicians and such amazing people that it’s the least I can do for them for everything they have done for me,” Baker said. “[I try] to publicize them and get their name out there because they deserve all the support.”
Baker has continued to have medical struggles, but she said J.Wride has always been there for her ever since she met them.
“They’ve done a lot for me,” Baker said. “First of all, they gave me a voice. Because they welcomed me in, became my friend, talked to me, helped me develop music, then when I got diagnosed with a brain tumor, they organized a benefit concert and gave me the money that they raised so I could help pay for my medical bills.”
Wride, the band’s frontman, said he is glad the band could help Baker.
“I organized a benefit concert for her as I would’ve done for anyone who has supported us in the same situation,” Wride said. “It’s cool to hear that our music has affected her in a positive way and to be honest that definitely is a huge goal of ours to help anyone in any way we can, whether it be through music or anything else.”