By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Even as a freshman at McNary High School, Hyrum Kohler was a force to be reckoned with as part of the music programs.

By the end of his sophomore year, he’d already had five original compositions played in public venues and had his services auctioned off for a sixth during a fundraiser for the fine arts department. Music was a deeply embedded part of his life and helped him find college opportunities at Brigham Young University after he graduated in 2016, but he put his school and music work on hold to take part in a mission trip for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints last year. Still, music found its way back to him.

Kohler was assigned to Newnan, Georgia (near Atlanta) earlier this summer, when he attended a food festival where they pulled double duty talking up the Mormon faith and getting a taste of local fare. “They gave you tickets and then you exchanged them for food, it was great,” Kohler said.

Near the end of the day, Kohler and a friend went in search of Chik-Fil-A, but the booth had already run through its supply for the day. “But someone working there had a violin case and I told her I played the viola. She told me about the community orchestra and invited me to come and practice with them,” he said.

The invitation slipped from his mind as his missionary duties take up the preponderance of his time, but he decided to walk over to the practice space a few weeks later.

“They were very willing to let me participate in the group. The director had other missionaries visit and take part,” Kohler said.

Unfortunately, the orchestra’s season drew to a close after a few weeks, but it was an unexpected opportunity and one of a handful Kohler has been granted because of his musical talents during his mission work.

“Sometimes I play in church services and I had one opportunity where the mission president arranged for me to play at a food bank. It was a giant warehouse in Peachtree City and one of the members of the church did the devotional. They sang a hymn and I was able play my instrument,” he said.

In addition to spreading the word about his faith, Kohler said he takes part in about two service projects a week depending on the area where he is assigned. Habitat for Humanity builds and work in local food pantries are frequent recipients of his labor.

He’s also part of a duo that goes door-to-door. He and his cohort moves to new locations in the Atlanta area about every six weeks.

He said Atlanta is greener than he expected, but seemingly ever-present humidity has been the biggest change he’s had to adapt to. “It’s funny to walk outside and sometimes my glasses fog up because there’s so much moisture in the air,” he said.