An encore in Trenton
Music has always been part of Alan Porchetti’s life. After his family immigrated to the United States from Argentina, he learned to play music at The Salvation Army. As a teen, he wrote articles for Argentinean heavy metal magazines while living in the U.S.
Today as a Salvation Army lieutenant, his biggest impact on music is happening in two New Jersey corps, as he helps to create the next generation of Salvationist musicians.
At his first officer appointment at the Bound Brook (Temple), N.J., Corps, Lieutenant Porchetti created a music education program, the first of its kind for the corps. Despite the small 8 x 6 ft., classroom, the program accommodated over 20 students. They learned how to play a variety of instruments such as guitar, piano, and bass.
This past June, Porchetti and his wife Lieutenant Ling Porchetti transferred from the Bound Brook Temple to the Trenton (Citadel) N.J., Corps. Upon arriving at his new appointment, he walked into spacious rooms and decided to re-purpose them. He pictured guitars mounted on the walls and pianos in every corner.
“There were rooms in the building for activities that could be used for music,” remembers Porchetti. “I said, ‘Let’s re-purpose these rooms, and call them our new music school.’”
Pianos and plexiglass
Porchetti went to work and created a music program similar to the one at Bound Brook Temple. Trenton Citadel’s advisory board members were supportive of his plan and donations were generous. Porchetti also reached out to Brian Czajkowski, the assistant manager at the Home Depot in nearby Robbinsville, N.J. Home Depot donated all the paint supplies for the music school.
“I contacted Guitar Center PRO from Guitar Center’s National Headquarters. I reminded them of what The Salvation Army had done two years ago. I asked if they would be interested in doing it again for a corps with just as much potential,” says Porchetti. Guitar Center agreed; They sold instruments to the Trenton Citadel at the same heavily discounted rate as they had to the Bound Brook Temple.
David Navazio, owner of the health company Gentell and an advisory board member at the Trenton Citadel, donated Personal Protective Equipment supplies for the Citadel’s large, socially–distanced spaces.
“We also bought instruments such as trombones and trumpets from The Salvation Army’s Trade Department,” says Porchetti. “We wanted to support the territory directly in our own way.”
In the weeks since the Trenton Citadel’s Music & Creative Arts program debuted, it has proved to be an exciting, active ministry, where children are learning brass instruments, dance, guitar, and piano. Classes are divided into two sections, one for ages 7 to 11, and another for ages 12 to 16.
“I love teaching them about the music I know, and seeing the students get better after going home and practicing,” says Porchetti.
Children are so eager to be part of the program, that some have asked to stay for extra classes when theirs is over.
“I have to explain to them and their parents that if one child stays, another child won’t be able to be in their assigned class,” says Porchetti. But after months of at–home learning, he understands how much it means for children to see their peers and to socialize every chance they can get.
“One of my students said that she had not eaten with her friends in a long time. Even after their return to school, everyone still has to eat lunch by themselves,” says Porchetti.
A capital presence
Porchetti acknowledges the responsibility that comes with having a corps building just blocks away from the governor’s office and the state health department.
“The Salvation Army needs to be seen working in a city like Trenton. Just like our canteens on the street, the Music & Creative Arts program is both ministry and public relations for us,” says Porchetti.
The program has become a part of the corps’ holistic movement, which Porchetti says welcomes the whole family. For example, while the children are taking lessons with him, Lieutenant Ling hosts programs for their moms, such as bible lessons and crafts classes.
“There can be something for everyone at the corps,” says Lieutenant Alan. “My dream for Bound Brook was to have music lessons for adults too, but we were transferred before we could make it work. It will be something to try here in the future.”
Porchetti’s second musical act in Trenton found success through his dedication, hard work, and networking skills. In the year of COVID–19 lockdowns, he says it was a matter of accepting the rules and guidelines of the pandemic, working with them, and believing that God was always in control.
“We have a newborn baby in the house, so of course, I was double masking at the corps. I wondered if I should carry my own plexiglass with me,” says Porchetti. “But it’s during these hard times when my faith in God really comes into play. We take precautions with masks, hand sanitizers, and space, but we also have to give Him some room to work and to protect us. That way, we can be safe on the outside and on the inside.”
by Hugo Bravo