New Divisional Music Director plans program changes to return focus to Salvation Army music basics
When people read the title, credentials and positions of Dr. Joel Collier, the new Salvation Army of Kentucky-Tennessee Divisional Music Director (and thus the Music Conservatory director at Camp Paradise Valley), they may be imagining an older man well into the middle years of his life and career. Well, they are in for a surprise when they meet the man who began the job on Feb. 15, 2017.
Dr. Collier is 27 years old. Last year, he completed his doctorate in Euphonium Performance, Pedagogy, and Literature at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, after earlier receiving a Master’s degree in Euphonium Performance from the university. Before that, he received a Bachelor’s degree in Music Industry from Drexel University in his hometown of Philadelphia. The euphonium is a valved instrument that’s part of the brass family.
While he may be young in years, his long list of accomplishments shows a world of experience. In fact, it shows a globetrotting performer, composer, and teacher of music who has shared his gifts with audiences and students across the United States, Peru, England, Austria, Germany, and South Korea.
His vigorous academic training and performance experience is something he intends to capitalize on with the summer music conservatory at Camp Paradise Valley in Burkesville, KY.
“The way I think about it, my university training was an intensive music experience. I intend to think of the senior conservatory members as students rather than campers. It will be more of a teaching opportunity than it has been in the past. The 15 faculty members will have detailed lesson plans. The students will learn an entire semester of music education in four weeks,” Collier said.
In addition to the four-week senior music conservatory for students ages 12-16, there is also a one-week junior conservatory for students ages 7-11. The senior conservatory currently has 33 students, while the junior one is at full capacity with 58 campers.
“I received this type of training as a child, and this is why I respect The Salvation Army training so much. After the age of 4, all of my early music training came from The Salvation Army through my local Salvation Army and Salvation Army summer camps and conservatories. I had the opportunity to sing and play in bands, which really made me rise to a higher musical standard which helped me. It was more intensive than what my college peers had received,” Collier said.
One of the ways he intends to set an exemplary standard as director is to reduce the number of tracks taught at the senior music conservatory and to place an emphasis on what has made The Salvation Army’s music so respected. In the recent past, there were four education tracks for senior campers: brass band, guitar, piano, and creative arts.
“I am very excited about it. I’m cutting down on the number to focus on the basics of The Salvation Army music. The major tracks will be brass band and piano, but in addition to that, every student will be in choir, music theory, sight singing, and rhythm fundamentals,” said Collier, whose extensive experience in church music, both contemporary and traditional, as well as his service as a pianist, singer, and worship leader will be invaluable.
When pressed for an expression of what his spin or brand is as director, he said, “The way I see it is expecting excellence and giving every student the opportunity to achieve. If the expectation is presented, a student is much more likely to reach the expectation. It’s our job to help them get there.”
His personal motto as director shows his determination to give back to every student the positive experience he received as a student of The Salvation Army’s music programs.
“It’s really about community for me. I’ve been able to witness all over the world, including most of the United States – both coasts and everywhere in between,” Collier said.
He added that while touring, he found a special affinity for the music and people of England. “I felt particularly strongly towards England. My girlfriend lives in England and it’s the home of The Salvation Army and the Brass Band movement.”
His girlfriend, Alicia, is a musician too, he said. A brass band performer and formally-trained ballet dancer, she is volunteering at Camp Paradise Valley this summer.
Collier has been making music his entire life as part of a family of brass musicians. “My parents are both musicians. Both my brothers and my sister-in-law are music teachers. My grandparents are musicians,” the young professional said.
Performing, composing, and arranging music is very meaningful to him. It is a God-given talent that he appreciates and loves to foster in others. His life experiences have also made him understanding of students who may feel discouraged.
“I’ve had two music teachers tell me I’d never make it as a professional musician, and I said to them, ‘Watch me.’ It’s always been such a large part of my life; there was no way I was giving up.”
Listening to excerpts from his first solo album, “Shadowed,” on joelcollier.com, it’s hard to imagine a well-meaning educator concluding that the highly-acclaimed Collier did not have a future in music. Any true music lover will rejoice that he said, “Watch me.”