How Georgia’s music conservatory came to bear Daniel Meeks’ name

Sep 24, 2020 | by Brad Rowland

(L-R) wife Sunshine, daughters Ana and Dakota, Daniel

All Photo Credits: Laura Dake

How Georgia's music conservatory came to bear Daniel Meeks' name

By: David Ibata

When Daniel Meeks learned the surprising and shocking news – on stage, at virtual youth councils in August – that The Salvation Army's Georgia Division was honoring him by renaming its summer music program the Kimball-Meeks Music Conservatory, his first reaction was: Wait, isn't this a little too soon?

"Because I'm still alive," he said. "Usually these things come about after you pass away, they name something after you. But it's a great honor. I'm grateful for the recognition."

Meeks has been divisional music director in Georgia since 2001, shortly after he graduated from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, with a bachelor's degree in music education. But his connection to Salvation Army music, Georgia Division style, goes back to the summer of 1988.

The Lyman C. Kimball Music Conservatory, named for a Salvationist musician from Augusta, Georgia, was founded two years earlier as the first conservatory in the Southern Territory.

Young Daniel was 12 years old when he started attending. He and his officer parents, then-Captains William and Darlene Meeks, had recently moved from the Texas Division, and he decided to take up the cornet. Off to the conservatory he went.

"I spent six straight weeks at Camp Grandview," Meeks said. To this day he remembers – besides the long, long time away from home – "the friends I made; the caliber of music being played, even though I was just beginning; and the people, the fellow campers and instructors."

Meeks couldn't stay away. Every summer, he returned to camp (he did change his instrument to the euphonium). Even after his parents were transferred in 1990 to the Maryland-West Virginia Division, he said, the conservatory "let me keep coming back."

Meeks joined the staff as a junior instructor in 1993 and rose to senior instructor for brass. After graduating from Shepherd, he was hired as Georgia assistant DMD in May 2001. That October, he was promoted to the full job.

"The conservatory set my path to wanting to become a divisional music director," Meeks said. "I just remember that when my parents got transferred out of Georgia, I was like look, I want to come back to Georgia some day and be the DMD. That was my goal. There were some hiccups along the way … but coming back every summer kept me connected to Georgia."

Lt. Colonel William Mockabee, Georgia divisional commander, said of the music conservatory's renaming, "I decided that because of Daniel's faithfulness to The Salvation Army and the Georgia Division Music Department, this would be a fitting tribute. … He's sat in all the seats and had the opportunity and invitation to leave a couple of times for other divisions that were interested in him, but because of his family and his dedication to Georgia, he stayed here."

"What makes him so special to me and folks here in Georgia is, the program is about more than music proficiency. It's about what's going on inside a kid – their spiritual well-being, how they're doing in school and the community. He's proven himself interested in making well-rounded young people of those in his ministry."

Nick Simmons-Smith agreed.

"Daniel has a phrase: Don't quit on the kids," said the territorial music and creative arts education secretary. "Every summer he says that to his staff. He loves pouring into young people, and he does it in a very humble and unassuming way, with careful, gentle, solid and wise leadership. And he's really shaped a lot of young people, almost as a surrogate parent to some of them.

"Some of the kids who come into our program don't have the best family backgrounds," Simmons-Smith said. "Daniel's able to speak into their lives and shape them. That's really important for the hundreds of young people who have come through the program. He's had an impact on their lives. Colonel Mockabee wanted to recognize the servant leadership Daniel brought to us."

Meeks is a soldier at Atlanta Temple Corps, where he's involved in the senior and youth music programs. He and his wife Sunshine and their daughters Ana Stezia and Dakota Syne live in Snellville, Georgia.

Meeks said the conservatory "helped build in me a passion for music and arts and how they can be used to build the kingdom of God and bring others closer to Jesus. To me, that's the power music can have: to help build people up and form a better relationship with Christ. We have these talents God has given us. We should use them to share Christ with others."

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