Salvation Army makes beautiful music, virtually

May 8, 2020 | by Brad Rowland

Salvation Army makes beautiful music, virtually

By: David Ibata

Music has been an integral part of The Salvation Army from nearly the very beginning of its ministry. But with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing actual instruction and rehearsals, the Southern Territory is taking "virtual" teaching and performance to new levels.

Consider the Territorial Music Institute. While the physical TMI has been canceled, a virtual TMI is planned the week of July 27-31, said Nicholas Simmons-Smith, territorial music and creative arts secretary. Each day, a Morning Manna time of worship will be followed by master classes, instruction in all disciplines with worldwide experts, private lessons, and fun evening programs. Details to follow.

"We don't expect kids to log onto Facebook for eight hours, but maybe if we can provide them with an hour of meaningful worship, or a chance to log on and have a conversation with Philip Smith, that would be fantastic," Simmons-Smith said.

Additionally, some divisions have announced the cancelations of their summer conservatories. Others still hope to meet, though there are many unknowns. Everyone has a plan for virtual online lessons through the summer, in one format or another.

"We're seeing all the divisional music directors suddenly switching around and making changes and pushing things out online," Simmons-Smith said. "We've kind of oversaturated Facebook with resources. There's so much, you can't possibly consume it all, but we feel it's better to have more resources out there than not enough."

Churches unable to meet have had to put their weekly worship services online – a daunting technological challenge made more so by the fact, most smaller corps had little prior experience with audio/video (A/V) production and internet streaming.

To help them, the territorial Music Department has been pushing out prepackaged content through the "Church in a Box" portal on Ministry Toolkit. Here, the praise band transMission recently released a new single, "Unfailing God." Assets include audio and accompaniment tracks, chords, lyrics, sheet music and a video.

MTK is continually adding content, such as band and songster lyric videos, transMission and Sing Praise music, said Laura Dake, Ministry Toolkit administrator. "We're hoping these resources will help corps officers plan for their Sunday worship," she said.

At the divisional level, Texas has been using the popular conference software, Zoom, for weekly songster rehearsals since April 1. It's an example how a big dose of creativity is vital to keeping everyone connected.

"All our divisional programs like youth councils, music rehearsals, concerts, and ministry trips were canceled for April and May," said Matthew Broome, divisional music director for Texas. "We're trying to figure out ways to stay in the forefront."

Texas also mapped out a month of weekday social media programming for April. A brass lesson streamed on Monday; a guitar lesson and A/V training, on Tuesday; and devotional video, on Wednesday. Thursday included another guitar lesson along with a new song for praise bands to learn. Friday ended each week with creative arts tutorials for dance and drama. A similar schedule has just been released for May.

A tougher challenge is coming up with an online substitute for the summer conservatory, which was to be in June and July at Camp Hoblitzelle. Children 7 to 11 years old would have attended a junior conservatory for one week; and young people ages 12 to 17, a senior conservatory for four weeks.

"We're not able to meet in person this summer, so I'm proposing a one-week virtual junior conservatory meeting once or twice a day, then a two-week virtual senior conservatory with two to four classes a day, including some private instruction as well," Broome said.

There's concern about regular participation and accountability for the online program.

"During April and May, we've been putting out videos that people can consume whenever they want, and we don't really know which locations or participants have been using them," Broome said. "For the summer, we're looking at Google Classroom and other apps, where we put up content and tell students what they need to do each day, and teachers and students can gauge their progress."

"This is just an unusual time where all of us are learning new things. We're trying our best to reach the folks we normally minister to."

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