The Value of Music

Learning to play an instrument can provide many benefits for students of all ages. Through music, young people can find a way to express themselves and discover untapped talent. It can also help adults lower their stress, alleviate depression, and quicken their reaction time.

Captains Hwang Lim and Seoyoung Soo, leaders at the Salvation Army’s Kearny Corps (church) in Kearny, N.J., were blessed with music education at an early age.

“While growing up in Korea, I took private piano lessons and had music education in school,” says Seoyoung. “Most Korean corps focused on the ministry aspect of church, so they didn’t have many other services like art or music.”

Hwang’s church in Ahyeon, Korea, was a pacesetter for creative art appreciation. “In 1992, my corps was the first to have a youth band in the Seoul Division, and I was its first member,” says Hwang, who played brass instruments.

When the couple received their first ministry appointments in Montclair, N.J., they saw how music was a big part of the congegation’s identity. Hwang felt comfortable in this role. Seoyoung saw a church that was investing in the lives of its youngest members by developing their talents and relationships with The Salvation Army. “Montclair understood that through music, we could connect with Christ in new ways,” says Seoyoung.

In Kearny, N.J., they further developed the music program by using what they had learned from serving at Montclair, as well as their own musical upbringing. “The music program in Kearny was only an hour long. In that hour, children studied three different music lessons,” remembers Seoyoung. “As someone who took many hours of piano lessons, I knew that this was not enough.”

They extended music lessons to three hours, made voice and singing a separate class, and began teaching music theory so children could play brass instruments better. As in most Salvation Army churches, they also taught timbrels (tambourines). “Our Kearny Corps has some outside influence in timbrels,” says Diane Basilowitz, who teaches timbrels, dance, and beginner band at the church. “We have Salvationists here from Kenya who know different techniques than what we teach in the United States.”

“Salvation Army events like Star Search (the Army’s yearly talent showcase for young people),  are reasons to practice and put in the hours,” says Seoyoung. “We always want to know that we are as prepared as we possibly can be when competing. The practice always pays off.”

“The captains push us to practice hard because they love us,” says Casey Matua, who plays the euphonium for the church in Kearny. “They know firsthand how much practice it takes to be great at music.”

“Playing in Kearny has taught me unity, and how to play as part of a team,” says Casey. “When in a band, everyone has a role to play to create music.”

Everyone also has a part to play in the growth of the program. The pastors keep the church advisory board updated on the progress made in the program. In turn, they inform the community and other service clubs about what The Salvation Army does.

“It’s just better when you have music coming out of your corps,” says Hwang. “Kids like learning a new instrument, and their parents come to see their children play. When they see what we have here, both children and parents want to become part of the church.”

Some community members are a bit surprised when they see that the pastors are immigrants from Korea. “We may not be completely fluent in English,” says Seoyoung, “but music is universal.”

Tips on how To Interest a Child in Music

Pick the right instrument. It’s the most important part of developing a love of music. Have your children try different instruments before making a decision.

Look for an experienced instructor. Even if you can play an instrument, you might not be the right person to teach your child music. Choose a teacher who will encourage and inspire them.

Explore online options. Parents who are concerned about COVID–19 can find many programs that offer virtual lessons for their children.

Stay actively involved. Ask them what they’re working on, what they’re enjoying the most or if they’ve learned facts about their instrument. Make sure they stay committed to practicing and remind them that their hard work will pay off.

Be open to the music that they like. Learning classics and spiritual songs is important, but children will also want to play the latest radio or pop hits. The more they relate to music they like, the more they will be driven to perfect their playing.

Be their biggest fan! Set aside time for their performances, even if it’s for one song in the living room. Offer praise to help them continue to practice and reward them for it.

by Hugo Bravo