AnSarah Baquet Interview on Phantom Tollbooth interview with Sarah Baquet on her freshman release Keep Me

Photo by Nick Jensen

Sarah Baquet, who also goes by the name ‘Sarita’, (acquired during one of her early mission trips) is a gifted songwriter, musician, mission worker, teacher, wife, mother, and friend to all who have been lucky enough to cross her path. Our paths first crossed a number of years ago as she played at our local Christian concert venue, the Cup ‘O Joy in Green Bay, Wisconsin. More recently, our paths again crossed producing this interview.

Baquet’s freshman offering has been a number of years in the making. Refined by those years and life’s experience, Keep Me shines with its offerings of faith, praise and the maturity of those years. Baquet is gifted in so many ways - a singer, songwriter, mission worker, wife, mother, and friend to all lucky enough to know her. Few artists are so gifted as to seamlessly craft multiple languages in their songs. Nearly a decade in the making, Keep Me combines these qualities with a faith as strong as I have witnessed to produce a collection of personal songs with the intent of sharing an artist’s truths.

Question:  How many years has Keep Me been in the making?  What transpired during this time?

Sarah:  The majority of the songs for Keep Me were written during my two-year stint of missionary service in Honduras (2000-2002). Several were written in the years following when I lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin where I worked as a Spanish teacher and engaged in ministry throughout the area as a singer, songwriter, and speaker. During my years in Honduras and Green Bay I was trying to understand God’s calling in my life so that I could live it fully according to His will. This led me to an intense discernment of the religious life (I am a Catholic, and in the Catholic Church many women feel called to serve God in the religious life as single women, consecrated to God, and dedicated to live for him in community taking certain vows.) It was a time filled with intense and emotional experiences – foreign missions, stateside ministry and vocational discernment. 

It is only in the past 6 months that I put the recorded songs and graphics into the final CD format. During the intervening years I joined Family Missions Company, a foreign missionary organization, fell in love, married, and had my first two children! Our first foreign mission as a family was in General Cepeda, Mexico. So, lots of years passed, and I know some procrastination on my part was definitely at work; however, I trust that God’s timing is perfect and that He works despite my own weaknesses.

:  What has most influenced your music and life?

S:  I was once asked by a friend who my musical influences were, and at the time, I drew a blank. I couldn’t think of names of artists or even a specific genre that had greatly influenced me.  However, I realized that Christian music in general had formed the backdrop of much of my teen years into the present, and when I started playing the guitar, Jennifer Knapp held my fascination.  As I sang in public, people compared me to various artists – Joni Mitchell was one I heard a number of times. People’s comparisons lead me to seek out various artists, study them a bit, and draw further inspiration from them. Now I would say I gravitate to artists such as Joni Mitchell, Patti Griffin, Alison Krauss, and Carrie Underwood. Over the past several years I have expanded my musical horizons to include some jazz influences such as Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughn. Recently, I’ve really gravitated to the genre of early Gospel and Blues. Other influences have been so numerous and many of those are listed in the “Thank you” section of my CD insert.

One of my biggest influences and inspirations during the time period in which I was recording was my guitar teacher, Michael Monfils. He embodied the skill and passion that I could only dream of emulating. Not only did he influence me in our classroom lessons, but also he influenced me by his support in performing and recording a bit with me on another demo. Most of all he offered his friendship and the friendship of his lovely wife and two precious boys who became as dear to me as family. So many people along the way have believed in me when my own confidence in myself was weak. The album is, as stated in the dedication and thank you portion – THEIR work combined with my own. It sounds a bit trite to say it that way, but it really IS true. Without the dear ones I mention in my dedication and thank you I never would have believed in myself enough to continue. I have to give a shout out to Mark Stankiewicz (production, mixing) and Nick Jensen (production, photography), two friends and strong Christian men that I met in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They donated their time and talents to make this album a reality. Their extreme gift really has witnessed to me about what it means to give everything to the Lord without thought of the cost and out of love for our brothers and sisters. They really have blessed and impressed me and I recommend their talents to anyone!

Q:  What is your musical history?

S:  I’ve always loved music and I did the typical grade school band thing. I played the flute. I was in choir in high school. It wasn’t until college however when I was surrounded by gifted musicians and songwriters that my musical life changed. I didn’t realize before that it was possible to use music in the way I witnessed in their lives, and that really brought to life a major passion in me! I learned to play the guitar, (a crazy leap of faith story in itself!). Almost as soon as I learned to play the guitar I started writing songs. It seemed that I couldn’t separate the two.

I grew in my ability to play, and started writing more substantial songs while in Honduras. Also, while in Honduras I was invited by one of my Honduran co-workers to sing with him in his performances and on an album of his (he is a singer/songwriter in Honduras). When I came home to the States. I moved to Wisconsin to live with and work for some family friends. They heard a simple recording I’d done of one of my songs and they encouraged me to sing at some local ‘open mic’ nights at the Cup ‘O Joy in Green Bay. I did, and everything took off from there! I started writing more, recording, and performing at various events. I even performed in a songwriting competition. I can’t remember if I got second or third place. I connected with another Catholic musician in Wisconsin, Tammy Ann Winn, and sang with her at several events. I also started guitar lessons and became friends with my teacher, Michael Monfils, and his family. We performed at several events together, and recorded a bit too, hoping to be able to share a selection of Christmas Music that we entitled ‘Music from the Manger.’

Then, I became a missionary with Family Missions Company where I began sharing my gifts by leading praise and worship for and with our community. I worked for a stint as a music teacher and worship leader for a local Catholic school, and I taught beginning guitar lessons. Now, I sing to and with my kids on a daily basis. My two year old LOVES the guitar and fights me to hold it. My baby grows still and coos along when we sing! My husband is also a musician, though our musical styles vary greatly!

Q:  What is the driving force behind this song collection?

S:  The driving force behind this song collection is a desire to pursue the will of God no matter what the cost – physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially etc. In the songs I recognize that God’s wisdom looks like foolishness to the world. I also recognize that no matter what the cost, it is ALWAYS worth it to follow Jesus! In Him and in seeking and following His will we will experience true freedom in this life and in eternity. Why wouldn’t we give it all?!

Q:  Can you provide background to a few songs:

S:  '"Till My Last Day": While in Honduras I was considering how exhausted I was in the service of the Lord and how most days I felt like I was fighting my flesh in a battle to be faithful to the Lord. People would tell me, “Sarita (the Spanish version of my name, Sarah), just a little while left and then you’ll be done (with my missionary work in Honduras). Then, you can rest and live an easier life.”  The notion sounded appealing, but I realized that for a Christian, we are not done until we are in heaven! The Scripture about “whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself, pick up his cross…” (Mk. 8:34) really spoke to me in this time about how my life as a Christian needs to be active and work for the Kingdom. While it is important, necessary, and even holy to rest and renew, the focus of my life has to be on actively building the Kingdom. This song is really an anthem of my commitment to the Lord to lose my life in service to Him until my last day.

S:  "Keep Me": I was on my way to a musical event (singing back up in my friend, Tammy Ann Winn’s, band). The event was several hours from home and I left pretty early to make sure I’d arrive on time. Turns out that I had some time to kill along the way, and so I stopped in a park outside of the city where we would be performing. As I sat under a tree this song came together surprisingly quickly. It really is a reflection from my own experience with battling against sin and for virtue.

It would seem that virtue is so difficult to live, and it is! It is really hard work to fight against the sin that seems so appealing (we would never be tempted by something unappealing!). And, sin is really “easy” and often ‘convenient’ to boot. We fight sin, because we trust that the virtue to which God calls will lead to real freedom, not temporary freedom that ends in slavery (Gal. 5: 13). Fighting to live a virtuous life is also hard because it requires energy, strength of will, and a willingness to sacrifice something that seems good for a higher good. On the contrary, sin is often soooo appealing (initially) it is convenient, and even feels “natural” and easy. What I discovered; however, was that giving in to the easy way of sin is really much harder in a very different way. In giving in to sin I distance myself from the Lord, and being distant from the Lord is infinitely more difficult, distasteful, and unpeaceful then fighting against my flesh to live virtuously and be with him. Being in sweet union with the Lord is so worth the work!

S:  "Gentle Man" – When I was in Honduras I travelled a good bit in my role as social worker. On one of my trips I sat next to a man in a bus station named Jose Luis. The song unfolds the actual story of our conversation and resolution to our meeting. I stood in awe of God’s work that day, bringing a man from Spain to Honduras, to a poor bus station so he could meet an American girl who listened to his heartache and experience the beginning of healing by our amazing God!

S:  "Daddy's Girl" – When I was a child my father would rock me on his lap and sing to me his own version of “Shenandoah.” It is such a wonderful memory for me and is a picture of total security in my Dad’s arms. The image encapsulates for me how God the Father feels about us and cares for us as His children. In His arms we are totally loved, protected, and secure.

Q:  Why did you decide to include 3 songs having Spanish lyrics?

S:  While I was a missionary in Honduras it was only natural to write in Spanish because that was the language that I was speaking 95% of the time. The lyrics also flow from the heart of the culture that I found myself in the midst of – not only the lyrics, but the images and sound as well. Language and culture are so intimately connected, and so the songs would lose something significant if translated into English. Besides, the Spanish language is just so beautiful. So, I left them in Spanish.

Q:  What does your future hold?

S:  I am currently in the midst of a really fruitful songwriting time, and I trust the Lord will bring these ‘song seeds’ to maturity in another album. I am looking to use my musical talents to serve the Church, and also in leading praise and worship in intimate settings with our work with Family Missions Company. I would really enjoy some opportunities to share my love of music on a larger, more formal scale; however, my husband and children come first in the order of my service to the Lord. My prayer is that He will make a way for me to be able to use my passion for song in a way that is fruitful for the Kingdom and a blessing for my family, not a burden in any way.
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Scott S Mertens

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