Mark Jarema said he fell in love with gospel music while planning a celebration of life for his sister, who died unexpectedly two years ago.
Jarema, a published author, instructor, and motivational speaker, didn’t really know or understand gospel music, nor did he sing or play instruments. Nevertheless, he made it a goal to create a gospel album.
It took about six months to make the album, and as part of that process Jarema enlisted the help of 60 musicians from 10 different countries who sang or played instruments, or both. Jarema mixed their sounds together to create the songs for the album, titled “A Beautiful Life,” all while working under a limited budget.
“I think what the album demonstrates is that I try to encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone,” Jarema said. “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. Not every day is going to be a good day, but there’s good in every day.
“God’s gift to us is a thing called life, and how we live our life is our gift back to him.”
Jarema was born in Maryland and graduated from Paint Branch High School in 1987. He served in the U.S. Navy for five years before working in the private sector for 15 years.
He currently lives in Sykesville and has worked for the Department of Defense for 11 years, delivering motivational, behavioral style and leadership seminars to employees of the National Security Agency, FBI, CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. State Department and more.
It took “hundreds of hours” to research and discover the artists before requesting commercial rights from them to sing the songs, Jarema said. He submitted samples of musical scores and keys to each person, and they sent their pieces in return.
Jarema said his favorite song from the album is “Amazing Grace” because the first 50 seconds of the song are performed by a bagpipe player from the Netherlands. He faced a few challenges in the creative process, he said, and almost gave up about three-fourths of the way through.
“Many people I contacted were either too expensive or didn’t want to give me commercial rights to use their music,” Jarema said. “I think the frustrating thing … is when you pay a musician to send you a guitar piece, or a drum or piano piece, if it’s not exactly what you envisioned, then you’re out of that money.”
The album is designed to be a positive affirmation for those who choose to listen, and Jarema has applied similar messages to his daily life.
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Just about everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong for Jarema about 13 years ago. He lost his job working as an instructor and trainer in the private sector, his home was foreclosed, and he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer — all within a short period of time. (Surgery was able to remove the cancer without chemotherapy or radiation, he said.)
He started listening to motivational speaker Les Brown and a variety of YouTube videos, desperately searching for a way to get out of his funk. Brown’s messages had such a profound effect on Jarema that he said he felt inspired to help other people navigate through their own hardships.
“If you change your attitude and change your mindset, you can change your life,” he said. “I did that, and my life just started turning around. Ever since then, I committed to helping other people.
“I really take advantage of every single day.”
The album, “A Beautiful Life,” is available on all major music websites and streaming outlets. Jarema said 19 of the album’s 22 songs are on those sites, but the full album can be purchased on his website, abeautifullife.store.
“With all the negativity going on in the world, we can do positive things even if you don’t have the skills or the mental health,” Jarema said. “Don’t let that stop you from achieving your goals. Don’t let the lack of know-how stop you from going after your goals. My goal was to create a gospel album, except I had no musical experience and didn’t know how to do it.
“Just through determination and perseverance, you can achieve whatever you want in life.”