Since moving back to Des Moines in 2014, musician Sara Routh immediately found her heart’s place in teaching and inspiring Des Moines’ young musicians. Through working and volunteering at countless music organizations (City Voices, Central Iowa Music Lab, Girls Rock! Des Moines, and Des Moines Music Coalition just to name a few…), Sara passionately believes in the importance of music education to empower our youth with the ability to express themselves and hone their skills in creative thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving. This year we honor Sara’s dedication to the youth in our community as “Mentor of the Year” at Backstage Ball 2018 on February 23rd at Backstage at Noce. Congratulations, Sara!
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Backstage Ball: You’re originally from Norwalk, Iowa, but have traveled the world performing your own original music. What got you started?
Sara Routh: My parents! They met working together in the Don Hoy Orchestra. My mom was the singer and Dad played the drums. Jazz music on the record player was a staple in our house. There was no question, my first love was music and I would have no deviation with my path. I honestly didn’t have any clue where the journey would take me and I was never hesitant to take to the road and try someplace new. This wanderlust love for music has never done me wrong.
BB: In addition to pursuing your musical career, you’ve volunteered your time to support the growth of others, most recently through Girls Rock! Des Moines. How did you become involved in mentorship?
SR: In 2014 when I moved back from Los Angeles, I landed a job in an office that lived next to the GR!DSM office. It was the most serendipitous moment of my life. I met with the programs’ founder, Rae Fehring, and over a bento box lunch I was moved by the mission she was so obviously passionate about and decided that I was in the right place, at the exact right time, and empowering the young females of this community through the use of music was the perfect fit for my heart and me.
BB: Speaking of Girls Rock! Des Moines, the non-profit has seen incredible growth since its first year of programming in 2013. The organization offers a unique, immersive creative camp for girls and women alike. As someone who’s volunteered and now works for the organization, what are some ways you’ve seen it impact individuals and the Greater Des Moines community?
SR: I have experienced the lives of young females blossoming right in front of my eyes. A young camper enters into the program on a quiet Monday morning, nervous and feeling all the “feels” of the unknown. Maybe they have never played an instrument before. Maybe they are bullied at school. Maybe they don’t have any siblings. Maybe they feel so very alone and lost in an ever changing, scary world. After two weeks of camp… that particular camper is on a stage, singing or playing that said instrument with other campers they trust and admire and support, feeling complete, proud of themselves & part of a new family they never may have known existed.
GR!DSM has had the honor of performing for crowds at 80/35, The Des Moines Arts Festival, PRIDE Festivals, grand openings for businesses, LaserFest, and the list goes on. To see the audience’s faces light up with amazement and pride for our young female community, it brightens my world to know we are molding the strong-willed and BRAVE female youth of our future.
More now than ever, I feel that our Greater Des Moines Community is ready and willing to support our program and to help it grow even more! Our future is bright and I am so excited to see how GR!DSM can give back to the community that has so graciously supported us throughout the years!
BB: Past or present, who are some of your mentors? How did they help mold you into the person you are today?
SR: Again, I turn to my parents first. They never sheltered me but instead they supported every CRAZY decision I made. They gave me space to make mistakes and learn from them. Allowed me to be a little different than the rest. Guided me to be kind, gracious, forgiving, faithful and to do anything I wanted as long as it was filled with love.
Dr. Anita Micich is another mentor who impacted my life for the good. I worked for her at Smouse School as a TA (teacher’s assistant) for children with behavior disorders. I learned from her that no one should be turned away from learning. Even though one child may not be able to speak due to severe autism, figure out a way to teach them. Figure out a way to have their voice be heard. All children can be learned from. We don’t know all there is to know… ever.
Mrs. Mary Anne Sims the founder of City Voices of Des Moines. She is a warrior. Founding a program that allows students to receive not only free voice lessons, but tutoring for school, music theory classes, how to get into college workshops, performance opportunities… the list goes on. It’s very rare to find a person who sacrifices so much of themselves for others. She is an inspiration to me and this DSM community. For sure a shining star in my world.
BB: Anything else you’d like to add?
SR: After traveling the globe for fifteen years, the decision to return home to Des Moines has gifted me over and over again. I am so proud of this community and how we continue to grow and learn from each other. Our musical community is tight and we fight like a true family. That is passion. That is love. That is growth. I am one lucky lady to be surrounded by such support and so is our youth. I can’t wait to see where they take us in the future.