Musical Mentors

Richmond, KY Salvation Army program uses college students to teach children

An instructor from Eastern Kentucky University works with two brass students during the Richmond, Ky. Salvation Army’s creative arts program.

The Richmond, KY Salvation Army’s creative arts program is experiencing great growth this year, thanks to a partnership with Eastern Kentucky University. The program, which takes place Thursday evenings, was started by Lts. Dakarai and Dominique Darby two years ago but really got a boost in September when EKU music education students began teaching the classes.

“We’re super excited about this partnership, and they are, too,” Lt. Dominique Darby said. “We told them how we can help them – they’re getting experience and knowledge on how to teach – and they’re helping kids in lower income places who might not have the opportunity to get private lessons.”

With EKU’s partnership, participation has tripled from 8 students when they began in the fall to 24 now, ranging in age from 3rd to 12th grade. The biggest classes are guitar and piano, with two brass classes (lower and higher) also offered. Because it has the most students, the guitar class isn’t able to offer individual lessons, but the others do, so the EKU students are able to work with each child on his or her own level.

“They’re excited when they learn songs, and it gets to that point where they can actually play something, even if it’s just one chord,” Darby said of the children. “We celebrate the little victories.”

Another victory, she said, has been the way some of the kids have blossomed since being in the program. “There’s one student in particular we brag about a lot. He had a lot of behavior issues when we first got here. Recently, we got a trombone in his hand, and he has just taken off with it. He loves playing it, so he wants to behave so he can stay playing it. He’s one of the kids we talk about how just getting an instrument in their hands can change their lives.”

The creative arts program in Richmond has two brass tracks: one for lower brass (pictured) and one for higher brass.

That student now attends the division’s summer music conservatory at Camp Paradise Valley and has taken his instrument to school to play for his music teacher and fellow students. He’s one of the few who has played at school currently, Darby said, but she hopes more will as they get to middle and high school and have an opportunity for it.

“A lot of them are in elementary school, so they don’t have a band,” she explained. “A few of them played at church on Youth Sunday, and we have connected them to divisional programs, so hopefully, they’ll stick with it and do it in school.”

More students hopefully will be able to learn through The Salvation Army program, too. As word has spread about the program, donations of both instruments and money to buy instruments have increased. Now, Darby said, the program has a good collection of instruments.

This is quite a change from when she and her husband first started the program. “We didn’t really have any instruments, so we would do acting classes or Beats from the Street, where we would use objects we have around here to teach rhythm.”

Last summer, though, the program won seven instruments from the Kentucky-Tennessee division. After that, the corps’ women’s auxiliary has bought a few instruments, including four brass instruments at the end of last semester. That purchase allows the creative arts students and the kids who play at church on Sunday to have their own instruments, so the Sunday children can take their instruments home instead of leaving them at The Salvation Army for the creative arts kids.

The creative arts program in Richmond has two brass tracks: one for lower brass (pictured) and one for higher brass.

They have also had to get additional guitars due to the popularity of the guitar class; however, they have been able to acquire those from donations either directly to the program or to the Salvation Army thrift store, so they haven’t had to purchase them outright.

They also got a few child-size guitars last Christmas from the Angel Tree program (where they were donated as extras and then not assigned to any Angel Tree children). This has helped for their littlest children, who have smaller fingers and are shorter, so they can’t reach around regular-sized guitars.

Now, as all the children are preparing for their end-of-the-school-year recital later this month, these younger guitar players are joining with the other guitar students for everyone to play the same song. Likewise, both brass groups will unite for a single piece. The piano students, on the other hand, will perform their own, individual songs.

“We’re just gearing towards that recital for now,” Darby said. “When we start back up next year, hopefully, we’ll be growing more with the kids, so we can build it more.”

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