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Inside Mormon Music: Reaching hearts through free inspirational music

Sally DeFord is a popular, brilliant LDS composer and arranger. You've no doubt heard her compositions performed by your ward choir, especially if you have a budget-savvy choir director. DeFord offers her sheet music for free on her Web site. Those who have discovered DeFord's talents are eager to spread the word.I was recently called as my ward choir director and started asking friends what pieces they'd recommend. Each person I talked to mentioned DeFord's music. My friend Danny recommended her exquisite arrangement of "I Need Thee Every Hour." I checked out DeFord's Web site and listened to her vast collection of song samples. As our choir learned "I Need Thee Every Hour," several members complimented the beautiful arrangement and wanted to know how I found it. DeFord said she often receives e-mails asking why she gives away her music for free. She explained, "I guess it's just because I can. ... The Lord has placed me in circumstances that currently don't demand extra income, he has inspired the creators of technology to produce programs that I can use to publish the music without the assistance of typesetters, and he has given me a gift that I did nothing to earn. Sharing seems logical."I hope people understand that though I give away the sheet music for my compositions, I don't necessarily feel that others should be doing the same. Everyone who is employed is selling a divinely given talent or gift in exchange for their bread, and that's a good thing. This is just the way I felt inspired to do it."Sally Deford started writing music as a teenager. "It was mostly wannabe pop songs, which I was really bad at."The first song I ever wrote was horrendous. It was a love-hate ballad aimed at a high school boyfriend, and even my uncritical mother couldn't find much good to say about it. I seemed to sense some hesitation in her 'Um ... very nice, dear' and destroyed it forthwith. So the boyfriend never got to hear it," she said.It wasn't until after DeFord was married and had two children that she found her niche composing and arranging Mormon songs. "Composing is, for me, a combination of therapy, testimony, relaxation, creativity and recreation. ... "I feel closer to the Lord while writing songs in his praise than at any other time."Her testimony and desire to praise Heavenly Father through her music resonates with the hearts of performers and listeners.Deford keeps plenty busy working on new projects. She recently finished working on two CD projects, "My All Is Thine" with Allyse Smith Taylor and Marvin Goldstein and "How Can I Keep From Singing" with James Loynes. She finds inspiration for new music as she studies the scriptures, listens to sacrament-meeting and general-conference talks, and in those quiet moments, like when she held her newborn grandson in her arms at Christmas time.DeFord's position to compose and share her music freely has allowed her inspiring songs to fill meetinghouses and hearts all around the world.For more information, visit defordmusic.com.