Part two of two

When Jake Hoot was proclaimed winner of “The Voice” in mid-December on Stage 12 at Universal Studios Hollywood, his mom had the best seat in the house.

Meanwhile, back in Tennessee, his father had the best seat in Lebanon.

The country singer’s parents, Stacy and Aaron, who spent 11 years as missionaries in the Dominican Republic where Jake learned to play the guitar, have lived in Smith County the past nine years. Stacy owns Double Takes Photography, which she operates from home. Aaron works for Lochinvar in the City of Cedars.   

Looking back on that incredible moment when Jake was named the winner, Stacy explained, “They flew us out to Los Angeles for his blind audition. Then they flew me, my daughters, Vivy and Katie, and Jake’s daughter, Macy, out for the finale.”

“I was at Lochinvar. They (management) brought pizza for us and shut down part of the plant so a lot of us could watch on a big-screen TV,” recalled Aaron of the big night.

Said Stacy, “They had special seats for us. I kind of thought he was gonna win. He came by to see us that morning. I told him, ‘You’re probably gonna win.’ He said, ‘No, no.’ I just kinda knew. It shocked all of us. He went from being just Jake to winner of ‘The Voice.’ I knew he had it in him but never knew it would go this far.”

Filling up the family room

The Hoots are mighty proud of Jake’s musical abilities, but they’re proud of all nine of their children, whom they homeschooled. Their offspring includes three born in Texas, three born in Oklahoma, one native Tennessean and two born in the Dominican Republic.

The nine, who, could fill a baseball lineup, are Joshua, 34, Jake, 31, Caleb, 30, Benjamin, 28, Katie, 26, Jonathan, 24, Emily, 21, Joey, 20, and Vivy, 18. Four of the children live at home, and most of the family worships with Cornerstone Baptist Church in Carthage.

Aaron and Stacy were born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and grew up in Orange Grove, population 1,310. They’ve known one another since they were 11. They will have been married for 36 years in April, have four grandchildren and take great delight in having the entire family over to the house they built on Beasleys Bend where Aaron loves to grills beef and pork on the back porch.

Aaron had been a mechanic who worked on German-made vehicles before he decided to prepare for ministry.  

“We were in Oklahoma, and my husband was going to Bible college after God called him to preach. It was about his junior year when God called him to be a missionary,” said Stacy.

“A Filipino missionary had come through and was preaching at the chapel, and he was going to Haiti. That really got my husband’s attention. He originally thought of going to Japan but that tugged at our heart. We prayed about it and God opened all the doors.”

While traveling across the U.S. trying to raise support, some like-minded souls in East Tennessee recommended the Hoots contact Cornerstone pastor Ron Ralph.

“I called him and he said, ‘Come on up.’ The first time we came with my son, Joshua. We were broke and sleeping in our van and would stay in a motel the night before we visited churches so we could shower and clean up,” said Aaron.

“Joshua said, ‘Daddy, this is where God wants us to go.’ So, we came here. The whole family loved the church and the people here. It’s a lot like Texas but you got hills here. We lived here for a year before going into the mission field.” 

The family lived in Pleasant Shade in 1997 before going to the Caribbean. They took a year furlough in 2002, making Defeated their temporary home. In 2011, they moved back to Smith County for good, and Aaron and Stacy now do mission work with Hispanics in the area.

When the Hoots first moved to the Caribbean, they spent four months in Haiti but then their oldest daughter became ill.

“She was pre-diabetes, and her diabetes came up full force, and we had to get her out of the country. We went down to the Dominican Republic. A missionary there helped us get Katie to a hospital,” said Aaron.

“In the Dominican Republic we lived with the people in the street and learned to speak Spanish. There was not much private time. They would come in front of our home and lean on the fence and listen to us sing and play. We still do a lot of singing around here. Emily has a voice like Doris Day. Jon and Benjamin like to sing. Vivy plays the ukulele.”

Developing Jake’s music

And then there was Jake, who both parents still often call Jacob.

“Ever since he could walk, he always hummed and sang and loved music. He ate up any kind of music. He could hear a song once or twice and had it memorized,” said Stacy. “When he was little, I had been cleaning the kitchen and he had taken some Clorox water and drank it. I became unglued and called emergency. I was thinking, ‘Please, God, don’t let anything happen to his voice so he can glorify you in song.’ ”

Thankfully, no harm was done to his throat or vocal cords.

Not only did Jake learn Spanish in the Dominican Republic but that was where he learned to play guitar.

“In our church there we had computer-generated music,” said Aaron. “They hated it. Jake said, ‘I’ll play the music.’ ”

For several summers Jake flew back to Tennessee and attended music schools in Kingsport and Carthage where he was mentored by David Armistead, director of the school. While there he learned lots of old gospel tunes, how to read shaped notes and how to sing four-part harmony.

In 2009, Jake returned to the Volunteer State, two years ahead of his parents, to enter college. He decided he wanted to play football at Tennessee Tech.

Recalled Stacy, “Jake had played football in the backyard with his brothers and other missionary kids in the Dominican Republic. I remember the first time he tried on a football helmet. He was about 5 years old and it got stuck on his head. We had a hard time pulling it off … When he walked on at Tech, he had never played organized football. They had to show him how to put on the pads.”

At 6-foot-6 and tipping the scales at just over 300 pounds, Jake was fast, and played on Coach Watson Brown’s 2011 Ohio Valley Conference championship team. It was a few of his teammates that talked him into singing at clubs around Cookeville. Now he’s hoping to have his debut album out in the near future. 

While Aaron works at Lochinvar, a company that builds high-efficiency boilers and water heaters, Stacy takes engagement, wedding, family and lifestyle photographs. It came to her naturally since her mother and grandmother were camera enthusiasts.

“They documented our entire childhood. I loved going my grandmother’s house and looking through all the photography albums. I fell in love with it,” said Stacy. “It was one of our favorite hobbies in the Dominican Republic.

“Katie and I started with a video camera. Then we went to digital then to DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) in 2009. She really wanted to use my camera, so we got her one. We would take those photo challenges on Flickr. Then we started taking pictures of our family and other mission families for their prayer cards. We began our business on weddings. I just like to document moments with memories,” said Stacy, who gets assistance, mainly, from Vivy, and extra help on weddings from Katie and Emily.

For a year, Stacy and her daughters, Emily and Katie, and daughter-in-law Kim tag teamed and took sports photos for The Carthage Courier covering basketball, softball and baseball.

And while Jake’s dad was not able to make it to Los Angeles to witness Jake’s “Voice” victory, he was present when his son made his “Grand Ole Opry” debut in early February.

“It was pretty awesome, and it was actually our first time to go to the ‘Opry.’ After all these years, we’d never been,” Aaron said. 

As for any words of advice about how to succeed in the entertainment world, Aaron said he told his son, “Put God first and family second, and everything else will line up after that.”

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