WMI – 2007 “Powered”

Powered by prayer, WMI offers more than music.

by Karen Gleason –

UK Songster Leader Susan Turner conducts the WMI chorus during the final concert at Tustin Ranch Corps.

While the music was outstanding, this year’s Western Music Institute also offered a powerful spiritual component, designed to keep the students constantly in touch with God and to keep them focused on the true purpose of their music making.

Each summer, from its start in 1976, The Salvation Army Western Music Institute (WMI) pushes teen and young adult musicians to develop their talents, stretch their limits, learn new skills—and make beautiful music, all for the glory of God.

Territorial Music Secretary Bandmaster Neil Smith led WMI 2007 and special guest UK Songster Leader Susan Turner directed the choral curriculum. Turner, formerly with the International Staff Songsters, now leads the songster brigade at the Stowmarket Corps.

For ten days, 117 delegates from across the Western Territory and beyond gathered at Camp Mt. Crags in Calabasas, Calif. for in-depth study of music and for leadership and spiritual development. All ten divisions sent delegates. Each student selected a “major,”—praise and worship, brass instrumental or girls vocal—and an elective. The electives included gospel choir, drama, timbrels, beginning and intermediate guitar, scoring for band and chorus, and instruction in brass, vocal or piano.

Powered by prayer
WMI ’07 found its inspiration in the theme “Powered,” based on Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

To keep delegates and staff connected with the Holy Spirit, a 24-hour prayer room was an integral part of WMI activities. Envisioned and developed by Major Kelly Pontsler, WMI chaplain, the room—actually a big tent—did indeed run round-the-clock. Pontsler explained: “How do you tap into spiritual power? By going to the Source! As an act of faith, the students and staff were challenged to man a prayer tent non-stop for the duration of WMI. And they did! We alternated the days between guys and girls, and every cabin spent one night praying in the tent. The music staff also took their turn. It was a remarkable experience! Every one I spoke with said the same thing: ‘it wasn’t as bad as I thought’ and ‘the hour went really fast’.

I have been impressed and blessed by the willingness of these young people to spend time alone with God and the sincerity of their prayers! They are returning to their corps as stronger, powered up Christians!”
God responded mightily to the prayers. One young lady revealed: “I finally get it—everything snapped into place. I’ve rededicated my life to Jesus.”
The oldest girls (Slater cabin) will testify to the power of prayer. During the night they spent in the tent, they prayed so hard the world shook—that was the night of August 9, when an earthquake, 4.6 on the Richter scale, occurred shortly past midnight, centered about ten miles from camp.

The music
After just three days of preparation, the students performed at the Army’s Bell Shelter—a powerful experience as the delegates witnessed the impact of their music on the clients there who are struggling to rebuild their lives. On the following evening, soloist night, 12 students presented individual offerings; this was not a competition, but the participants did receive critiques from experts in their particular field.

The mid-week concert included selections from the different bands and choruses, along with contemporary brass, praise and worship and a timbrel number.

Saturday’s final concert, held at the Tustin Ranch Corps, featured polished performances by all the major groups: the Erik Silverberg Band (Bandmaster Stefan Wennstig) and the Ray Steadman-Allen Band (Bandmaster William Gordon); Contemporary Brass, also led by Gordon; the Leonard Ballantine Chorus (Bandmaster Ralph Pearce) and the Norman Bearcroft Chorus (Songster Leader Martin Hunt); the WMI Vocal School (Songster Leader Susan Turner); and Praise and Worship (Major Warren Dabis).

The WMI Timbrels (Jacqui Larsson) performed “El es el Senor” (Dean Jones), using castanets as well as timbrels. The WMI Chorus (Songster Leader Susan Turner) sang “Through the Tears,” written specifically for WMI by Darren Bartlett, and “O Be Joyful in the Lord” (Psalm 100, music: John Rutter). The WMI Band (Bandmaster Neil Smith) performed “Variant Suite—Aspects of Praise” (William Himes). The assembled WMI delegates/staff sang “And You Will Be My Witnesses” (words: Acts 1:8, music: Leonard Ballantine) and “Creation Sings!” (David T. Clydesdale).

Chad Ingram from the San Diego Citadel Corps received the Stillwell Award, with Daniel Summers (Salem Citadel) in 2nd place and Christian Riesebieter (San Diego Citadel) in 3rd place.

Katelynn Ehrs of the Seattle White Center Corps received the Watt Scholarship. The Crestmont Award went to the Pasadena Tabernacle Corps, with the Santa Clara Corps in 2nd place and the San Diego Citadel Corps in 3rd.
Instrumental pins went to Chad Ingram and Daniel Summers (cornet), Gavin Hayden and Andres Quintana (trombone), Christian Riesebieter (euphonium), Andrew Sholin (tuba), and Bryan Cook (percussion). Quintana, from Chile, was one of three international students at the camp.

Choral pins went to Aleen Bradley (soprano), Ben Thompson and Jonathan Tollerud (tenor), Oscar deLangen (bass) and Matthew Ball (Praise and Worship). Thompson, from the UK, was another of the international students.

After the benediction by Territorial Program Secretary Major Eda Hokom, Bandmaster and retired Territorial Music Secretary Ivor Bosanko led the assembly in the choral benediction.
During the week Major Kelly Pontsler concluded each concert with a devotion.

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