INSTRUMENTS of LIGHT
“Necessity is the mother of invention” —English proverb
This saying sure rings true for Jeff Crabtree.
He’s the Salvation Army’s regional music director for the Western Pennsylvania Division (DHQ), who arrived from Texas a year ago. He soon found there was a lack of instruments for his young Salvation Army music students in Corry, Warren, and Oil City, Pa.
“After looking in the music closets, it was clear that I didn’t have enough instruments,” Crabtree says. “I wanted to start a beginner’s band. I was picking up as many instruments as I could find, but I couldn’t get a lot of them to function.”
Crabtree remembered how an old trumpet teacher told him that many musicians turned their non–working instruments into lamps. He went online and found some converted lamps selling for as much as $150.
That’s when the proverbial “light bulb” came on.
“I had three personal instruments that I quickly turned into lamps,” he says. “I raised $900 by selling the horns, which allowed us to buy three new cornets.”
Crabtree said the effort has raised $1,225 so far (counting donations) and DHQ is giving him more instruments. One music storeowner offered Crabtree a donation if he would turn the storeowner’s inoperable trumpet into a lamp.
“I don’t view it as selling and I definitely don’t view it as a sustainable model for raising funds,” Crabtree says of the venture. “We take donations. We also are looking at grants and at other sources.”
Crabtree said the Arts Council in Corry is “quite intrigued” and has asked for at least two instruments to be part of an upcoming art auction. Crabtree also has spoken before community groups to let them know about his idea.
“It’s not just selling the lamp, we’re selling the program, and we’re selling the story as well,” he says. It has helped us get the initial revenue needed to get a few instruments into kids’ hands.
“How do you find money in a place where the community is tapped out? You’ve got to think outside the box.”
Crabtree said turning an instrument into a lamp can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. The most difficult part
is feeding the electrical cable through the tight bends of an instrument’s tubes and valves, which are narrower on older models.
“The more bends you have, the harder it becomes,” Crabtree says. After choosing an appropriate base, Crabtree said, the final stage is to pick a lampshade.*
The Light, new life
While giving an old instrument new life has a certain charm, Crabtree is more concerned that his young music charges find new life in Jesus Christ.
A native of Lubbock, Texas, Crabtree took a post–master’s class on the history of the Church in America and was impressed by what he learned about The Salvation Army.
“It really was the writings of Booth that caught my attention,” Crabtree said. “Booth talked about wanting to serve the community and be the ‘hands and feet’ of Christ, giving your ‘heart to God.’ That spoke to me and my wife.”
A fan of brass bands and an instrumentalist himself, Crabtree began attending a corps in Odessa, Texas, where he volunteered to help young people.
“Working with the group of kids in Odessa really changed my perspective on what The Salvation Army is and what band programs can do,” he says. “I have seen students go from failing, to making straight A’s, to winning awards, and to choosing to follow God.”
He says when he spied a job posting for a regional music director, “I prayed and fasted before I made the move. And so did my wife. I felt called to this path in ministry to help make a difference in the lives of kids who struggle in school and have difficult home lives.”
His stay in Pennsylvania will be short. Crabtree plans to return to Texas later this year to serve on a divisional music staff.
A lifelong passion
Crabtree was raised in the Church of God (a holiness movement) and accepted Christ at church camp. In 4th grade, he won an essay contest that allowed him to sit with a local orchestra. The principal trumpet player let him hold the instrument and play.
“I played my first note on stage and that’s how I got connected to music,” he says. “That one experience influenced me for a long time.”
When finding performance space was a challenge, The Salvation Army offered a solution.
“One thing I love about the Army is, they’ll get you going and worshiping,” he says. “That’s a great ministry and a great way to get kids connected.”
by Robert Mitchell
*The lamp fundraiser is for the hopeless instruments. Have yours checked by a Salvation Army or music store expert before turning it into a lamp. Lamp buyers should have finished lamps checked by an electrician before use.