If any of his friends or family were looking for him, they might find MTHS graduate Luke Bailey on the roof, in a tree or climbing a balcony.
The second oldest of nine children, Bailey had always grown up around music. Seeing his mom teaching his older brother, Bailey started playing the piano when he was only 4-years-old.
“When my parents were gone, I would go play the piano and then, one day, I thought my parents were gone and I was playing the piano and they thought it was my brother so they came out to correct a mistake I had made and realized that I was sitting there playing the piano,” he said.
Bailey’s love for piano grew and grew, and when he got to high school, he met music teacher TJ Sullivan, who would become one of his favorite teachers and a lifelong friend. To this day, Bailey remembers with fodness sitting in Sullivan’s office and playing Starcraft for hours on end, and sometimes skipping his other classes to come play piano for Sullivan’s other choirs.
If he ever got a chance to spend a period making music with Sullivan and the choir, Bailey would seize it.
“It was my favorite period easily, just because it didn’t matter how you felt. You could come in and if you were having a good day, bad day, it didn’t matter. You start making music, and by the end of that period, you just felt great about life,” he said. “Harmonizing with people and making some good jazz…it just made you feel good.”
After high school, Bailey went on to serve a two-year mission for his church in Russia, part of which was spent as a humanitarian worker in Belarus.
During this time he provided food, services and clothing to children in addition to puppet shows teaching kids about the dangers of alcohol. While there, Bailey and the two others with him encountered a Committee for State Security (KGB) agent specialized in religious affairs who was hostile to the presence of missionaries in Belarus. Soon, Bailey and his friends were being followed by KGB agents and skinhead gangs.
“Sometimes, we’d have to carry around weapons for our personal defense, and cameras for the KGB agents,” he said.
Despite the disturbances, they continued their work in Belarus, working with a youth group that puts on an annual performance in front of a branch of the country’s police or military. That year, the performance was being held in a military building.
During the finale of the performance, while the youth performed on stage and Bailey sat off to the side, he was arrested by military personnel and taken to the jail in the basement of the building. However, seeing Bailey and his associates getting taken away, the leader of the youth groups cut the program short and had the 50-60 kids involved in the program run to the basement in support of Bailey and his friends.
“They weren’t going to arrest us and put us in jail in front of 50-60 kids, so they let us go,” Bailey said.
However, after that day, the KGB continued causing problems for Bailey and his friends, and it finally resulted in a criminal trial.
“One day, we were over at some friend’s place singing songs and just hanging out with them, and the KGB raided the place and held those people at gunpoint and made them sign documents that said that we had broken the law,” he recalled.
In court, Bailey was convicted of being a Russian spy and given an ultimatum. He was to either leave the country within 24 hours or be imprisoned by the authorities.
“The first one was definitely preferable, so I got on a midnight train and went to Russia, where I served the rest of my mission and had a great time,” he said.
However, Bailey will never forget the time when he was on the way out of the country on the midnight train. Though it was dangerous for the residents of Belarus to be out at night due to the oppressive laws that the government had placed on them, they came out of hiding to say goodbye anyway.
“As the train started to leave the station, all these people came out of the bushes and different things next to the train tracks and were waving goodbye and singing songs to us. We got to reach out the window and give them high fives as we left,” he said.
Bailey always loved music, but he knew that he wanted to be able to provide for a family with his career. At first, he thought accounting might be the answer, but after exploring that path he decided it was not for him.
Using his prior experience in building information systems, Bailey went to college and got a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in management of information systems. Since then, Bailey has worked for several different companies, including Microsoft, in addition to multiple startups. Today, he is a manager of business solutions at the Walt Disney Company.
“I specialize in getting rid of things that people hate about their job, whether it’s through automation or centralization or just straight business process improvements,” he said.
A 1999 Terrace graduate, Bailey has also come back to MTHS as a volunteer for Sullivan. Every day, he works with his former teacher to create music and help out where needed.
“Mr. Sullivan and I had a great friendship when I was going through high school,” he said. “We did so much together with concerts and with getting kids into choirs and trying to build these choirs up. It’s nice to be back with him like old times, just making music and playing piano and helping out.”