Western Music Institute celebrates 30 years

Thirty-year anniversary marks musical and spiritual transformation.

by Hannah Violette – 

“WMI is the camp for me! WMI is the place to be!” The descent began on the evening of August 2; by noon, August 3, Camp Mt. Crags in the heart of California’s Malibu Canyon was completely overrun by 128 teenage and young adult Salvationist musicians, delegates to the 30th annual Western Music Institute. All were eager to worship the Lord, build their musical skills, and find a date for the Candlelight Dinner. Adding to their number were 39 faculty members, led by Territorial Music Secretary Neil Smith, eager to worship the Lord, share their musical skills, and chaperone the Candlelight Dinner.

“Analyze, harmonize, audition, test…” Tension was high as students made their trek through testing and auditions. Some were eager to show their musical transformation since last year; sight-reading brought everyone to their knees. First-timers and WMI veterans alike couldn’t wait to see what band and chorus they made, and who their teachers for the week would be.

“Vocalize, memorize, give it your best…” Continuing a legacy started by Majors Terry and Beryl Camsey, and continued by Bandmaster Ivor and Janette Bosanko, the professional music faculty again raised the standard of excellence for this year’s students.

Highlighting the faculty was special guest Dorothy Nancekievill, leader of The Salvation Army’s International Staff Songsters. Under her guidance, the Ruby Adams Girls’ Chorus and the WMI Chorus hit new heights in vocal production, performing pieces representing the best from Salvation Army composers, cinema, Broadway and standard choir repertoire. “When we began a few days ago,” commented Nancekievill before the final performance, “we were a group of many voices singing some pleasant notes. Now, we are a choir.”

Bandmasters Bill Gordon and Ralph Pearce took their respective bands through their own challenging paces, premiering new compositions and reprising well-known pieces from Army past. Chorus leaders David Dunford and Kevin Larsson each successfully united over 60 voices to produce lush harmonies and perfect unisons. Major Warren Dabis led young praise and worship leaders past simply singing new songs and playing new rhythms to becoming lead worshipers. “My goal is to teach people in the track to lead others into the presence of God through music,” he said.

When not consumed with mass group rehearsals, students enjoyed a variety of small elective classes ranging from private instrumental instruction to music composition and drama. Others explored Uniquely You, combining their own personalities and spiritual gifts to discover possibilities for effective service in God’s Kingdom.

“Let everyone know you’re the pride of the West at the Music Institute!” For all the excitement and value of learning music for music’s sake, the true product of the week was the students’ ministry in worship and evangelism. From the Bell Shelter early in the week to the final blowout concert at the Tustin Ranch Corps, the students displayed a sincere desire to seek and proclaim the Lord. Musical transformation served as ground for spiritual transformation, as they made the world with music ring with praises to our God and King. Hallelujah!

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