Captain Kevin Zanders

Captain Kevin Zanders, administrator at the Salvation Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Philadelphia, Pa., talks about the music mentors in his life, how he remains faithful to his home state of Ohio, and the way a personal injury transformed his perspective on visiting people in hospitals.

I’m grateful for the music leaders God has given me throughout my life. When I was young, my family would go to the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Youngstown, Ohio every Sunday to have lunch with the officers. I met Richard there, an ARC beneficiary who played the drums. He gave me lessons after every Sunday lunch. When he bought a new drum set, he gave his old one to me. Later in life, Captain Jon Jackson opened my ears to R&B and funk musicians such as Al Green, Parliament, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Hearing their basslines made me want to pick up the bass guitar myself. Jon played drums, and we played together for fourteen years. When I first played bass during a service at the Kroc Center in Philadelphia, they thought it was strange to hear basslines in gospel music. But we broke down barriers to communication. When people share common musical tastes, it makes them  want to know what else they have in common with each other.


When my daughter Zoe received a skateboard for Christmas, I offered to help her learn how to ride it. I had been a good skateboarder myself 25 years ago. But that day with Zoe, I hit the curb, fell backwards, and landed on my head. Perhaps wearing a helmet would have saved me from getting a serious concussion. I also suffered some memory loss. For a while, I could not remember the family vacation we had taken only days before my accident. The doctors said that my injury was as serious as it could be without being life–threatening. That day, I taught Zoe a valuable lesson—always wear a helmet.


Philadelphia is a great place to live, but my heart stays faithful to Ohio in some ways. My staff at the Kroc always get on my case because I refuse to wear Philadelphia Eagles green. But they know I’m loyal to the Cincinnati Bengals.


James 4:8: “Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh unto you.” While I was in the hospital, my wife, Captain Tawny Cowen–Zanders, kept asking me what my favorite Bible verse was.  Despite all the confusion that day of the accident, those words I learned in Sunday school remained in my mind. As a Christmas gift, Tawny gave me a cornet mouthpiece with James 4:8 inscribed on it. It was an emotional moment; because of my injury, I thought that I would never play cornet, my first instrument, again.


When visitors came during my hospital stay, some sat next to me and talked; others stood. I’m not a prideful person, but I didn’t like the feeling when people stood over me or surrounded me or looked down on me. I thought about all the hospital visits I had made as an officer. Had I done the same to the people I had come to comfort? From that time on, I made sure to always sit next to rather than stand over the person whom I visited.

interview by Hugo Bravo

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