Salvation Army music and arts leaders gather in Atlanta for National DMD Conference

Mar 10, 2023 | by Brad Rowland

Salvation Army music and arts leaders gather in Atlanta for National DMD Conference

By: Brad Rowland

After a first-of-its-kind gathering in 2018, Salvation Army music and arts leaders from across North America came together at the Evangeline Booth College in Atlanta from January 10-13. More than 70 attendees from the United States and Canada assembled for the 2023 National DMD Conference with extensive fellowship, instruction, worship, and the sharing of best practices for ministry.

The conference featured 12 united sessions, covering varying topics from the care of youth to brass band conducting and leadership, choral leadership, fundraising, and spiritual formation and discipleship. The group began each morning with a worship-minded session, led by insights from Major Kevin Metcalf and musical worship from Randy Bonifield. The conference concluded with a meaningful service of consecration aimed to send the music and arts leaders back home with a renewed focus.

Several united sessions featured the tutelage of Philip Harper, musical director of the Cory Band (UK) since 2012. The Cory Band is known by many as perhaps the top brass band in the world, and Harper brought a combination of experience and top-end communication to the conference.

"The sessions were truly excellent," said Nick Simmons-Smith, territorial music secretary for the USA Southern Territory. "Philip Harper is an innovative programmer and storyteller, and he's also a fantastic composer and conductor. His work with us was enlightening and very helpful for our ministry. The breakouts were also very informative and a great time of learning."

In addition to a jam-packed schedule of general sessions, the conference also featured five breakouts with multiple classes offered during each period. Examples included a "DMD101" class aimed at newer divisional directors, a class on the operation of divisional arts rehearsals, a focus on singing company development, and classes on both storytelling through music and reimagining songs for worship.

"I thought there was a great mix of topics and a very good sense of fellowship in the group," Simmons-Smith said. "Much of the good work happened outside of the sessions, talking around the lunch table and sharing conversations of struggles, successes, or strategies. I think that was a key part."

Beyond the valuable instruction in both united and breakout sessions, music and arts leaders enjoyed the vital experience of fellowship and the sharing of best practices. The conference itself was planned and executed in a spirit of collaboration between territories with the knowledge that only so much can be done in a four-day period, but the inherent value of like-minded individuals sharing experiences and building each other up shone through the week.

"A crucial part of the time was the sharing of best practices that helped to build each other up," said Simmons-Smith. "Some of the divisional directors are on their own, some are in larger teams, some are new, some have been at it for 20 years or more, and that mix was helpful to create and facilitate conversations and contributions. It was also pleasing to see the group become more diverse, and we hope to see continued growth across the board."

Plans are in place for the conference to move forward every three years, with anticipation already building for its return in 2026.

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