This week’s highlight is of someone very dear to Maurine and me: Cherie Call. She is a very talented musician, has a very big heart and a very big talent and she basically entertains us every morning (not live, mind you, but through Pandora or Spotify). She really reaches and touches our hearts. We are often in tears as she does her signature songs about one aspect of life or another that is common to all of us.

We all have mentors at some time or another—someone who steps up and believes in us at a crossroads. I was extremely touched by Cherie’s backstory of how she became the singer/songwriter that she is today. This happened to Cherie as a young student at BYU. And it has a lot to do with another dear friend of ours: Ron Simpson. Most everyone in the Latter-day Saint music industry knows Ron. Sadly, he passed away this past week—July 30, 2023. I want to include a paragraph from his life story and then, by permission from Cherie, I will quote verbatim the story she wrote about how Ron blessed and mentored her life.

“Ron Simpson grew up in Palo Alto, California, but spent the bulk of his professional life in Utah as a musician, band leader, composer, arranger, recording studio owner, record producer, author, music publisher, owner of Sound Column Companies, and radio host (“Meet the Music” on KUTR). As a faculty member at BYU, he founded their Media Music program (now known as Commercial Music), mentored countless students, taught songwriting and music theory, served as the general manager for Tantara Records, and also hosted “The Tantara Hour” on BYU Radio. He worked and toured the world with BYU’s Lamanite Generation (now known as Living Legends) and the Young Ambassadors.”

Before going to Cherie’s story I have to publicly thank Ron (I have many times privately) for being one of the early believers and supporters in Meridian Magazine when we were barely surviving. Through Tantara Records he ran advertising and was a regular for many years—doing it because he saw that Meridian was going to do some good in the world. Thank you, Ron! (I know he can hear me).

Now please read this story from Cherie about Ron because her story here really touches on some aspect of each of our lives. Note all the ways that Ron mentored, encouraged and gave confidence to Cherie (it’s a great pattern for us to follow):

“When it comes to people who have changed my life, hovering around the top of that list of people is this man, Ron Simpson. This photo was taken about ten years ago, when he interviewed me for his radio show.

“I’ve loved singing and writing songs since I was a little girl. Music has always been my life and who I am. I tried being practical though, so when I planned for college, I figured I’d do music education, and maybe become a choir director or something. Now, choir directors are amazing and I hold them in high regard, but it wasn’t meant to be for me. When I got to BYU, I passed the theory exam but was told by the faculty that someone with a voice as bad as mine should never teach young people to sing. So, I didn’t get into the major. Devastated, I tried to find some things to fill my schedule while I figured out what to do next. My mind flashed back to when I was in high school and we hosted the tech guys from BYU Young Ambassadors when they were on tour in Arizona. My mom, being the zealous fan and promoter she has always been, got out cassettes of all the songs I had written and made these poor tech guys listen to them. These were terrible songs.

“One of these tech guys was J Bateman, who went on to be a legendary songwriter and producer. Back then in 1990, he kindly suggested to my mother that I think of taking songwriting lessons from Ron Simpson at BYU someday.

“I remembered that as I was madly trying to replace all the music major classes I had to drop when I was rejected as a major. It was the nineties, so the way to add a class was to bring these paper cards to a class you wanted to take and beg the teacher to let you in if it was already full. Ron’s class was full. I got in a long line of begging people after the class was over. With tears in my eyes, I told him what had happened and how badly I wanted to take the class. He looked at me and somewhat grouchily said that if I could be low maintenance, he would let me add the class.

A large percentage of all the good things that have happened to me in my life are somehow connected to Ron saying yes to the scared little crying girl with the add/drop card in 1992. (emphasis added)

“It would take too long to explain how so many of the people I met in his classes were woven into my career and life, and how it eventually indirectly connected me with Joe [Cherie’s husband] who also loves Ron and could make an epic post of his own about him.

“But Ron most directly changed my life with the things he taught me, and by believing in me. He got me into the music major, this time as a songwriter instead of a choral educator. He became my biggest mentor. He had a lot of high hopes for me that I never even lived all the way up to, when I think of the paths my career ultimately has made. But I did so much more than I thought I could at first, because of the knowledge and hope he opened up to me.

“I’ve had a season of being a songwriting teacher myself. My first teaching job, other than workshops, was at Snow College. The person who hired me said, “You took from Ron Simpson, right? Would you please teach the Ron way?” “It’s all I know,” I replied.

For the past ten years I have rewritten and refined my curriculum quite a bit but the core has always been what I learned back in 1992 from Ron. Trends change but the important stuff, the guts that make a song good, those things never change.

“Some of my favorite Ron memories:

“He was trying to explain how to make your lyrics conversational and not stiff or nerdy sounding. One way to accomplish this is to not flip your sentence around just for the sake of a rhyme. He urged us not to write lines that sound like Yoda would say them. As an example, he said, “If you write lines like this, a bad grade you will get.”

“As a freshman I was still built like a little girl and was fresh from the very hot temperatures of Arizona. I wore a skirt to my first songwriters showcase that hit a little bit too high above the knee. Not to be provocative, I didn’t even think of myself that way at all. It was just how I dressed back then. Of course, BYU being what it is, some goober wrote a letter to Ron threatening to turn me in to the honor code unless Ron gave me a stern warning.

“Ron sat me down after his class and his face was beet red. He really didn’t want to have to have that conversation and I think he felt rotten about it. He quickly reminded me of the agreement I made to follow the dress code. I was mortified. I felt so guilty.

“A few months later at our next showcase I wore a long-sleeved button down chambray shirt tucked into a floor length denim skirt. Like the female counterpart to a Canadian tuxedo. I wasn’t trying to be funny, but Ron laughed so hard the moment he saw me walk into the Madsen recital hall.

“Ron came to many of my album release concerts, including the 20th anniversary concert I had for my first album, which was made up of songs I wrote in his class. It made my night when he said “Those are still good songs.” It was always an honor to see him there.

“I treasured conversations I had with him and some of my dear friends and colleagues a couple of times when we got together with him. A few years ago, Joe and I had dinner at Michael McLean’s home with Ron and some other friends, including Tyler Castleton, who is a lifelong friend that I met in Ron’s class. We played music and talked and it was a really special evening. Joe and I even drove Ron there, so we had extra time to talk with him.

“I had heard recently that Ron wasn’t doing well. I had the care center info in my phone, hoping to get a moment to go visit him one more time before he passed. Everything was so busy. I missed my chance.

“I did send him a note that I hope he got the chance to read while he was resting, about the legacy I knew he would leave, and how he blessed and changed my life.

“It’s just another one of those times when you realize you should never miss a chance to tell someone the things you want to say about how much you love them.

“I’m just one name on a long list of people who are mostly much more impressive than I am, who have been taught, impacted, and loved by Ron Simpson. His legacy will last a long time. Thank you, and farewell, my friend, till we meet again.”

Thank you, Cherie, for sharing that tender and touching tribute to Ron. Cherie does not have a large YouTube presence but I found this one song that I love that I will share with you. Now, sit back and take the four minutes to listen to one of Cherie’s wonderful and unique songs: