Florida music and arts ensembles perform, instruct in weekend outreach
By: Brad Rowland
Musicians and artists from nine Salvation Army corps in Florida came together Feb. 28-March 2 for a weekend of ministry and fellowship. The Florida Divisional Band and Creative Arts visited Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City over the course of three days, covering 138 miles in ministry area, with a wide-ranging visit that included performance, visitation and instruction.
After arrival and setup on Friday evening, the group split into three ensembles for nursing home visitation on Saturday morning. It was a fruitful time, with connections made and many smiles generated among those visited.
“Music is universal and can break down many barriers,” said Paula Bridges, divisional Christian education director and a member of the band. “Music is a great way to draw both young and old into The Salvation Army and, more importantly, into a relationship with God.”
Simultaneously, a group of instructors spent Saturday morning and early afternoon leading breakout sessions at the Fort Walton Beach corps. Classes included audio-visual training, praise and worship, creative arts and both beginner and intermediate brass.
“Florida is such a big state and division. Reaching out and ministering to the corners of it keeps The Salvation Army connected,” said Julie Hastings, an employee of the Orlando Area Command and a member of the band. “That ministry inspires both the band and those we encounter through the spiritual words of the music shared. The workshops, in particular, were a fantastic idea.”
The workshops were perhaps the highlight of the weekend, with the children showing substantial progress across three breakout sessions, each spanning an hour. That growth also serves as a reminder that spending intentional time in instruction can pay dividends.
“I was personally impacted by the spirit of the children we taught,” said Taryn McComb, program assistant at the Clearwater Corps and a member of the band. “They were eager to get back to their practice rooms and continue learning how to play their horns. The beginner’s brass class was so excited by a mouthpiece buzzing game where they buzzed the rhythm of a song and let their peers guess the song. They were disappointed when we told them class was over and even begged for more time playing. Their spirit and enthusiasm gave me a lot of hope for the future of The Salvation Army and brass bands.”
From there, the ensembles and instructors came back together as a full band, venturing to HarborWalk Village in Destin, Florida, for a rousing and well-attended open-air concert. Finally, the divisional group purposefully split into three separate ensembles for Sunday morning worship, supporting the work at the Panama City, Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach corps, coming alongside local corps musicians in an inspiring manner.
“Musical ministry is so important, and I believe it gives people a strong connection with the church,” said Jonathan Renfroe, a bandsman from Clearwater. “I can personally say that music ministry is what held my own relationship with Christ through my ups and downs. It also provides an opportunity for kids to receive small-group, or even one-on-one, instruction for little to no cost, which wouldn’t be provided anywhere else.”