Young Ambassadors director inspires beyond the stage

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Randy Boothe teaches children to play the keyboard at the SOS Children's Home in Gabarone, Botswana, as part of a Young Ambassador tour. (Photo by Mark A. Philibrick/BYU Photo.)
Randy Boothe teaches children to play the keyboard at the SOS Children’s Home in Gabarone, Botswana, as part of a Young Ambassador tour. (Photo by Mark A. Philibrick/BYU Photo.)

It is 10 p.m. and bitterly cold in New York City.

A late-night diner is open and quickly filling with people from all over the world. Excitement and anticipation rise as the former BYU students gather at the restaurant where Randy Boothe sits. It is the last night Boothe will be in the city, and he makes it a point to take advantage of every chance to catch up with his graduates.

For the past 35 years, Boothe has blessed the lives of his performers as director of the Young Ambassadors.

“The amazing thing about Randy Boothe is that he is everyone’s dad,” said Annalece Misiego, Boothe’s youngest daughter. “I always felt like I had hundreds of brothers and sisters growing up because they would be everywhere during the holidays.”

The oldest of seven children, Boothe came to BYU expecting to be a piano performance major. However, after a serendipitous encounter in the Skyroom, he was offered a full ride scholarship to BYU Hawaii where he graduated with a degree in the composite arts, a precursor to his career. While there as a student, he became the director for the singing and dancing showcase group of the university.

What started as a short-term graduate project when he later returned to BYU in the ’70s to direct the student musical group Young Ambassadors has spanned nearly the entire career of the talented director and pianist. His impact and reach have also been deeply felt during those years by audiences around the world.

“What Randy has done is remarkable. This ensemble has touched millions of lives. His influence in China alone has reached 320 million people,” said Stephen Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications.

Boothe, now an associate dean of the college, has had ample opportunities to work for other organizations throughout the years, including Disney. However, he always felt ties to the university.

“I just felt like I was supposed to be here at BYU,” Boothe said.

Randy Boothe instructs students and performers at the Daegu Citizen's Center Hall in Deagu, Korea. (Photo by Mark A. Philibrick/BYU Photo.)
Randy Boothe instructs students and performers at the Daegu Citizen’s Center Hall in Deagu, Korea. (Photo by Mark A. Philibrick/BYU Photo.)

He remembers accompanying a faculty member on the piano at a university conference when Elder James E. Faust approached him about his recent decision to turn down a job at Disney.

“Elder Faust told me, ‘I want you to know you made the right decision,'” Boothe said, smiling at the memory. “It certainly didn’t hurt to have an apostle telling us that!”

Time would prove Elder Faust’s comments correct. In the following years, Boothe was integral in organizing and directing major performances, including the Olympic Spectacular in Salt Lake City in 2002. He created the music dance theatre major at BYU and advised the Church in the design of the Conference Center in order to facilitate future shows.

“It has been interesting how it seems I have been at the right place at the right time for these wonderful opportunities,” Boothe said with his usual humility.

Perhaps more remarkable than his successful career is the character of Boothe and the impression he has left on former students.

“Randy helped me to develop a stronger testimony and a spiritual grounding that I have built on to help me to stay true to what I believe, (which) has made a big influence on my career choices,” said Dallyn Bayles, former Young Ambassador and successful traveling Broadway performer.

Sharlene Hawkes, former Miss America, believes Boothe’s tutelage has largely shaped her ability to be comfortable in front of an audience.

“It was that year as a Young Ambassador that I learned how to communicate from the stage, not just perform,” Hawkes said. “(Randy) has an amazing ability to communicate with every person in the audience … when he performs.”

Many say Boothe inspires the best in people, sometimes exceeding their own expectations.

“Randy encourages me to really shoot for my dreams and that I shouldn’t be scared to chase something I’m passionate about,” said Tanner De Waal, current Young Ambassador.

The scene at the diner speaks for itself. No matter where Boothe’s students are in their respective walks of life, they will do anything to see and talk to the humble man behind the music.

“That,” Misiego said, “is his greatest tribute.”

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