Charlotte Temple’s SPA hits all the right notes for corps growth

May 22, 2023 | by Brad Rowland

Charlotte Temple's SPA hits all the right notes for corps growth

By: Major Frank Duracher

Every Tuesday afternoon and evening, something big is happening at the Charlotte Temple Corps in the North and South Carolina Division (NSC). Character-building and a love for music, arts, dance and drama are lovingly promoted by thirty adult volunteers who are sharing in different ways, their mentoring of the community's youth. Best of all, the gospel is promoted and the corps is drawing entire families into its fold.

Charlotte Temple's "School for Performing Arts" (SPA) is a coordinated effort to meet a variety of needs among children and teens, many recruited through the Marsh Road Boys & Girls Club operated by the corps. Other children are being drawn from the neighborhood and from families already connected to the corps.

"The genesis for a corps SPA actually began in 2016, when (then) Divisional Music Director, Leon Kirkpatrick, had the idea for a regional gathering to augment the NSC's Divisional School of Arts," explains Captain Mike McGee, Charlotte Temple corps officer. "It worked for a while, with musicians from surrounding corps participated. But the wheels came off in March 2020 when COVID hit."

When COVID restrictions finally loosened in the second half of 2021, Temple Corps leaders were anxious to restart regular programs, particularly with an emphasis on ministry to children and teens.

"That led us to hold our first Corps Leadership Summit," Captain Mike says. "Everyone was invited to participate in the two-day event—soldiers, friends, active officers, retired officers, neighbors. A more focused concept of a music and arts school emerged, and so Charlotte Temple's S.P.A. was born."

The captain says that on the first Tuesday, 13 children and seven adult volunteers showed up. Eighteen months later, attendance is 35 kids and 20 adult volunteers.

\"We elected to hold three semesters per year—Fall, Winter, and Spring—with a Sunday morning graduation concert ‘Showcase' is held to invite parents and families to come witness what their kids have learned," he says.

The corps SPA departs from the prior regional version in that the curriculum is a narrower focus of classes that results in a better quality of program. While students enjoy a hot meal and go on to specialized music and arts classes, Captain Rebecca McGee is posted in the corps lobby to welcome visiting parents and others dropping by to see what all the excitement is about.

"What's equally exciting is how parents, coming into the corps to witness what their child is experiencing, are themselves volunteering," says Captain Rebecca. "Several such individuals and families have even become corps attendees and later enrolled as soldiers." Added to that is the happy fact that some of the volunteers have no music background of their own—but are anxious to contribute what gifts they do have in order to promote their child's positive development.

Kadiean Cameron is one such parent. Her two children have music talents now discovered and are advancing in several of the classes. Although her son, Kyle, admits that his favorite part of the evening is "the food!" Kyle, 12, is learning piano and plays a brass horn both at his school and here with the Temple Corps Band. Alyssa, 10, is learning piano.

Each Tuesday begins long before the children arrive. Divisional Sergeant-Major Eddie Laity and four faithful ladies arrive around 3 p.m. to begin cooking and setting tables for a hot supper for the SPA students and volunteers. Their weekly work is an unofficial Women's Ministries outreach, Eddie's participation notwithstanding.

"To me it's very meaningful," says Lois Jackson, a volunteer for two years now. "I've always been a person to give, and in my church in Ohio, we fixed dinner, so when I moved down here and (Major) Miriam (Musgrave) asked me to help, I immediately said ‘Yes!' and I'm so glad that I did."

Another cook/volunteer, Dorrette Hextall, echoes her love for this ministry. "I love helping out. In Jamaica, I was a librarian, so I was used to working with children and adults. Now I can come and make myself useful by doing my part to help these children. That makes me feel good."

After dinner, around 5:45, the students move to the chapel, where Captain Mike leads all of the kids in a singing company class, with Judy Griswold on the piano. A devotional is always given, emphasizing the great news of the gospel. While singing is going on, the kitchen and dining room volunteers are cleaning up after supper and setting chairs for upcoming classes. It is a beehive of activity throughout the corps.

"Having everyone taking the singing company class helps set the foundation for whatever instrument or art skills they elect to learn," the captain says.

The timing for both serving dinner and then singing company is purposeful. "It's no secret that Charlotte traffic can be a bear," Captain Mike muses, "so our instructors getting off of work can get here, get a bite to eat, and catch their breath before setting their class up."

At 6:15, it is time to migrate to the specialized classes: brass band, guitar, piano, art, and handbells. By 7:00, the students and volunteers are free to leave, except those that elect to stay for Temple Band and/or Praise Band rehearsals. The Praise Band has grown from four to 13. "Some people remain or even ‘drop by' just to listen to the music," says Captain Mike. "In fact, it's not unusual for some to remain for fellowship or to play pingpong long after everyone else has gone home."

Note here, that the corps growth is not only bringing in kids and parents. This program is also aimed at established soldiers and corps families. The three tenets for the Temple Corps mission are "Worship (Love God), Grow (Holiness Together), and Serve (Impact Others)."

"From the outset, we are encouraging our soldiery to first, Worship," explains Captain Rebecca. "Worship produces spiritual Growth, which then leads to Service in at least one area of ministry— much of this coming about through volunteering in SPA—like cooking dinner, set-up and clean-up, music and art instruction; even being present in classes as per Safe From Harm standards."

And, of course, Growth and Service lead back to Worship, she adds.

AJ Mitchell works at the North and South Carolina Divisional Headquarters as assistant music and arts director; but he is also a faithful soldier of Temple Corps and volunteers in several areas of SPA, including guitar class.

"I've seen kids grow musically and spiritually," AJ says. "The kids come in ready and hungry to learn more. The class grows every semester and when the parents come by to pick them up, they do not want to leave!"

Major Pete Costas is a former Temple corps officer—now he and his wife, Major Cathy, are retired officers attending the corps.

"It's important for these young musicians to learn and to grow and to experience what it means to have these gifts—and to develop these gifts God has given to them," Major Pete says.

One former instructor, Nathan Cole, states, "I've seen these kids stand up and perform in front of a big, live audience; something they didn't think they could have done 12 months before!"

The Charlotte Temple Corps is on to something. Definite progress can be seen, not only in their behavior and character, but in their belief in God. Budding musicians and artists represent great stories of learning untapped skills to take back into their school and home environments and to become more well-rounded individuals.

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