Southwest Youth Band Convocation

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Young musicians gather for instruction and performance.

by Heather Melvoin –

Divisional Bandmaster Ralph Pearce shares his love for music with kids from the Southwest Division. [Photo by Isobel Pearce]

The Southwest Divisional Band recently hosted 93 children and their leaders from the Phoenix area and Las Vegas in the first ever Youth Band Convocation. Divisional Music Director Ralph Pearce hopes this will become a regular event for the division.

The day began early as the young people, ranging in age from 6 to 18, assembled with their instruments on the platform in the chapel of the newly remodeled Phoenix Citadel Corps. Also present were divisional band members—teachers, officers, and professionals—all there to help the kids learn and appreciate brass band music. After the introduction of Territorial Music Secretary Neil Smith, the kids had the chance to play as a band, some of them for the first time. With Smith leading them, in just a few minutes they began sounding like a cohesive group!

They worked on “The Happy Day,” based on the chorus, “O happy day, O happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away.” Bandmaster Pearce wrote this arrangement with simple parts for the beginners; the more experienced players in the divisional band accompanied them. The result was a piece that was pleasing to the audience and gave the kids a sense of accomplishment.

Following a day of rehearsals, the kids were ready to demonstrate what they had learned. Parents, friends and corps members from around the area attended the afternoon concert. Representatives from each corps participated in a group piece and performed a solo. The Mesa Citadel Junior Band presented an arrangement of “He is Lord,” with Zachary White playing the alto horn solo. Following that, Mesa’s second cornet players, Isaac White, Kelly Cunningham, Ashley Burton, and Jasmine Debelmar, played an arrangement of the hymn tune “French,” accompanied by Smith on the piano. The Chandler group presented “Do Lord,” followed by Natalie Koenig’s cornet solo, “Take My Life.” Finally, the Las Vegas Youth Band, led by Pete Cooper, presented several numbers, including an arrangement of “You Are My All in All” by Travis Constantine, Las Vegas corps member and youth band helper.

The day was a success—the youth were encouraged and the divisional band members blessed by the kids’ eagerness to learn. Pearce hopes that the children and their leaders will put what they learned into practice in their own corps. After all, Pearce says, “These kids are the future of our music programs and the future of The Salvation Army.”

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