As school funding declines, The Salvation Army boosts music instruction
By: Judy Hamilton
“Music in Our Schools” month in March celebrates how music helps body, mind and spirit work together. Sadly, school funding cuts in art and music education have left many children with few creative outlets during and after the school day.
The Salvation Army understands the importance of music to the overall health and well-being of children and is doing all it can to make up for the dwindling music education in schools.
“We’ve always had music happening on Sundays, but now we are extending those programs out,” said Dr. Joel Collier, divisional music director of the Kentucky-Tennessee Division.
“We are doing this to reach out to the community and to provide music education at no cost in several different ways.”
In Nashville, for example, music is part of the Army’s after-school program. “Since the kids are already there, why not reach out through systems that are already in place?” Collier said.
“Also, we have word of mouth,” he said. “We encourage the kids in the Sunday programs to bring their friends from school and their neighborhoods. Most parents are very happy to do that, because their children can learn a skill for free.”
Music education provides many benefits to children. It fosters confidence, teaches discipline and promotes group responsibility.
“I view music education as a tool,” Collier said. “I recognize that as I have kids walking through the door, the vast majority won’t be professional musicians. But that’s not the goal. The goal is a dedication to showing up and practicing and being involved. We teach the skill of perseverance. These are skills that are transferable to other areas of their lives, like math homework.
“More exciting than that is that learning the basics of music theory reinforces math skills. The more advanced the music theory, the more connections with math. Music and math are common double majors.”
Growing the number of music programs in the division and ensuring they continue is important to Collier.
“Many of our programs are still new, but two programs stand out to me. The Richmond, Kentucky, program is one of them. In Richmond, they are teaching brass, piano, guitar and voice with the help of students from Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Music. Nearly a dozen university students come over and teach. Even after these students graduate, the program will continue. It’s a partnership that will last,” Collier said.
“The second program is in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Magness Potter Campus. It is an after-school program that already exists. We saw an opportunity to directly reach out to the students who are already there,” Collier said.
The Salvation Army Magness Potter Community Center coordinates over 15 collaborating private and public social service providers offering a variety of services to this community of more than 10,000 people, particularly economically disadvantaged families and at-risk youth. Collier’s faith is a big part of why he promotes the benefits of a musical life.
“We are not shy about this being a religious experience. We pray before we begin our lessons and we pray after our lessons,” Collier said.
After completing his first summer as director of the Conservatory at Camp Paradise Valley, Collier couldn’t be more excited about the next one.
“We had a very excellent year, and I am so happy with the progress the kids made in especially the Senior Conservatory. For this summer, we will keep the same disciplines, but are expecting an increase in the number of participants, and we are expecting a lot of returning students,” Collier said.
The Salvation Army rejoices every day that music study helps create a positive attitude toward learning that develops the whole child – mind, body and spirit – including a child’s imagination, a God-given gift.
Reprinted from “Life in Paradise,” blog of the Kentucky and Tennessee Division, March 13, 2018