Junior Maxwell Youngquist is a Renaissance man, both in the sense of his musical taste and in his pursuit of a multiplicity of uncommon skills and talents.
Although he usually only focuses on two or three hobbies at a given time, Youngquist practices an extensive and continuously-expanding range of talents, some for other people but many just for his own enjoyment.
“Whenever there’s a thing that requires creativity, I want to try my hand at it,” Youngquist said. “I know I’d probably be better if I stuck with one thing, but I just get interested by all of these different things.”
His current pursuits are music, card tricks and cooking, although he has also dabbled in watercolor paintings of landscapes on paper cut to the size of a playing card, carpentry — through which he once crafted a sailable sailboat to ride in the lake and frames for his miniature paintings — knitting hats and scarves for babies and more.
His musical pursuits began with a desire to play with every instrument, and though he still hopes to one day achieve this, he has taken particularly to guitar in the meantime. Recently, he has been writing instrumental songs with his guitar, many of which are about his cat.
One of these sagas is a delightful story in which his cat escapes at night to attend a jazz bar, and Youngquist must find her.
“Just silly songs like that with simple melodies,” Youngquist said, describing his music.
Youngquist has now been playing the guitar for 13 years and is almost entirely self-taught, save for the few chords his father taught him when he began.
Youngquist is currently saving money to buy a banjo and continue his musical expedition. His most recent purchase was a small electric organ on which he plays Gregorian chant and sings along.
“Gregorian chant is a big love of mine,” he said. “It’s my favorite kind of music.”
He has now been practicing Gregorian chant for three years and is currently in Dr. Brian Bentley’s choral course, through which he practices it further.
“I’ve been becoming a little more comfortable with [playing in front of other people] recently in this past six or seven months, and I’ve been trying to record some of my songs,” he said. “It’s always so difficult to record.”
“When you’re just playing, you’re having fun, but when you put the microphone down, you kind of get a crick in your neck and get a little nervous, but I like to play and just not really think about it,” Youngquist added.
Youngquist’s musical inspirations are musicians from the 1800s, one of which was a left-handed guitarist who turned the guitar upside down so that she could teach herself to play despite being not being right-handed.
“She didn’t have anyone to teach her, so she just figured it out herself, so she’s my favorite guitarist,” Youngquist said.
Another hobby that he is currently pursuing also originated from childhood. He began to do magic tricks at six years old when his grandmother’s friend performed at a child’s birthday party that he and his brother attended.
“He showed us some magic and how to do it, and ever since then, [my brother and I] just always wanted to get our hands on a deck of cards or look at magic books at the library,” he said.
“Recently, I’ve been working on more difficult things to do with the cards that require a lot of skill that I don’t have yet, but it’s a good practice cause it’s kind of meditative and teaches you how to be really sure about what you’re doing with the cards.”
He also uses his talents and interests to help others. When one of his friends decided to go on a mission trip, Youngquist set up a booth in Haggar from 2-3 p.m. and performed card tricks for donations to help his friend raise money.
“I like making people happy with the card tricks,” Youngquist said. “They have no idea how it happens, and it always delights them.”
His third creative hobby at the moment is a more recent one: cooking.
“I just like being creative,” he said. “Right now, I’m working on cooking. So I’m trying to learn how to cook better and cook different things, so I’ve been baking a lot of bread recently.”
“It’s a little difficult at first because you have to figure out how to get the bread to rise or else it turns out too thick,” he added. “I also learned how to make pizza from scratch.”
None of these hobbies are career plans for Youngquist, who plans on using his English degree to become a literature teacher for high school students and perhaps eventually a professor, as he continues to grow and learn about the art. If not this route, then he is very open to religious life.
Despite his love for all of these hobbies and the time which he dedicates to each of them, he does not necessarily identify himself by them. His true love is for his close friends and for his family.
“A lot of people are known for who they are, and sometimes I feel like I’m known just for what I do, the hobbies I have, or maybe a skill,” Youngquist said. “But I really value friendships, so I have two or three close friends. That’s the biggest part of my life: my family and my friends.”