Derek W. Lance

Derek W. Lance, territorial music secretary and bandmaster of the Salvation Army’s New York Staff Band (NYSB), talks about lessons learned from the book of Psalms; playing trumpet for the United States Military Academy, West Point; and the warm welcome the NYSB received in Japan.

For years, I’ve held on to the words of Psalm 139. The words are a reminder that, even in my worst days, God is with me. In 2001, I lost my mother to cancer. During that painful time, I was part of a Star Lake Music Camp performance called “The Eternal Presence,” which was based on Psalm 139. I cannot flee from the Lord’s presence, no matter how angry or hurt I may feel at the moment. Knowing that God is everywhere and has never left my side, has been a powerful anchor in my life.


My wife Lorena also plays in the NYSB. Most couples go on vacations; we go on Staff Band trips together. Our two daughters, Isabelle and Caroline, are also involved in our life as musicians for The Salvation Army. They enjoy participating in music camp and Old Orchard Beach ministries. They understand that we are musicians in service of the Lord. I’m happy that my work does not separate me from my family. In a different type of music career, I would be working months on end without being able to spend time with them.


After graduating from the Julliard School in 2005, I accepted a position as a trumpet player for the West Point band. After 10 weeks of military boot camp, I enrolled as a staff sergeant. As part of the band, I played at football games, funerals, Veterans Day parades, and for Generals and U.S. presidents. But graduations were the most memorable performances. When students would graduate earlier or later than others, the band would play for only 2 or 3 graduates and their families at those ceremonies. Those audiences were very appreciative; you can’t discount what it meant to them to have a band at that special moment.


This is my third year as bandmaster of the NYSB. For five years I had worked under the former bandmaster, Ron Waiksnoris. I enjoyed being part of the band and helping Ron behind the scenes. Today, my role as bandmaster has been a new experience. When I’m playing an instrument in a band, I really only have control of myself. When I’m finished, I’m proud of my performance. As bandmaster, I’m focused on the performances of 35 band members, and when the performance is over, I’m proud of each of them.


Thirty years from today, I’ll still be talking about the Staff Band’s 2018 trip to Japan. The country is not like the ones in Europe or South America; it can be difficult to find any English–speakers in Japan. But as soon as we arrived, we were treated like rock stars. On our first night in Osaka we were in a beautiful venue, in front of the most enthusiastic crowd we’ve played to in years. Later in the trip, in a small town near Tokyo, we did a joint concert with a local school band made up of children ages 7 to 12. Those young musicians were absolutely amazing. It was one of the most joyful nights of music I’ve ever experienced.

interview by Hugo Bravo

Previous post

Fire A Volley

Next post

A tribute to Eugene Peterson