Music Improves Mind, Body and Spirit

As Funding for Music in Schools Decreases, The Salvation Army Increases Music Instruction

“Music in our Schools” month is celebrated in March as a way to shine a light on how music helps the body, the mind and the spirit work together. Sadly, the increased focus on the three R’s – reading, writing, arithmetic – in schools has caused funding cuts in art and music education, leaving children with few creative outlets during and after the school day.

At Camp Paradise Valley campers learn to sing in a choir.

The Salvation Army understands the importance of music to the overall health and well-being of children and is doing all it can to make up for the dwindling music education in schools.

“We’ve always had music happening on Sundays but now we are extending those programs out. We are doing this to reach out to the community and to provide music education at no cost in several different ways.  For instance, in Nashville, we have an after school care program. Since the kids are already there, why not reach out through systems that are already in place. Also, we have word of mouth. This happens a lot. We encourage the kids in the Sunday programs to bring their friends from school and their neighborhoods. Most parents are very happy to do that because their children can learn a skill for free,” said Dr. Joel Collier, Divisional Music Director of The Salvation Army, Kentucky-Tennessee Division.

Music education provides many benefits to children.  It fosters confidence, teaches discipline and promotes group responsibility.

“I view music education as a tool. I recognize that as I have kids walking through the door that the vast majority won’t be professional musicians. But that’s not the goal. The goal is a dedication to showing up and practice and being involved. We teach the skill of perseverance. These are skills that are transferable to other areas of their lives, like math homework.  More exciting than that is that learning the basics of music theory reinforces math skills.  The more advanced the music theory, the more connections with math. Music and math are common double majors,” Collier said.

Learning to play a band instrument is part of the Camp Paradise Valley experience.

Listening to music improves certain functions of the brain, but actually playing music enhances spatial reasoning. Studies show that students with better spatial reasoning skills tend to do better at mathematics.

“Talking about music skills, I directly reference skills they already have like fractions. Then it becomes second nature to them, like half notes and quarter notes,” Collier said.

Growing the number of music programs in the Division and ensuring they continue is important to Dr. Collier.

“Many of our programs are still new but two programs stand out to me. The Richmond, Kentucky, program is one of them. In Richmond, they are teaching brass, piano, guitar and voice with the help of students from Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Music.  Nearly a dozen university students come over and teach.  Even after these students graduate, the program will continue. It’s a partnership that will last,” Collier said.

The Salvation Army’s local music programs increase a child’s appreciation for the arts.

Another new music program is causing excitement as well.

“The second program is in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Magness Potter Campus.  It is an afterschool program that already exists. We saw an opportunity to directly reach out to the students who are already there,” Collier said.

The Salvation Army Magness Potter Community Center coordinates over 15 collaborating private and public social service providers offering a variety of services to this community of more than 10,000 people, particularly economically disadvantaged families and at-risk youth.

“There is an old Salvation Army saying:  ‘If you teach a kid to blow a horn, he won’t blow a safe’.  The time factor to learn a musical skill and the amount of time they have to put into practicing it is a direct deterrent to bad habits,” Collier said.

Studies show that making music with others reduces risky behavior. For instance, students who participate in organized music lessons such as band or orchestra have lower levels of substance abuse. This is something Dr. Collier can personally attest to:

“I have never smoked.  Habits that involve smoke would damage my lungs and my voice,” Collier said.

His personal experience is not something he shies away from sharing with his students. His faith is a big part of why he promotes the benefits of a musical life.

“We are not shy about this being a religious experience.  We pray before we begin our lessons and we pray after out lessons,” Collier said.

Learning to play an instrument helps develop skills beyond music.

After completing his first summer as director of the Conservatory at Camp Paradise Valley, Dr. Collier couldn’t be more excited about the next one.

“We had a very excellent year and I am so happy with the progress the kids made in especially the Senior Conservatory. For this summer, we will keep the same disciplines but are expecting an increase in the number of participants and we are expecting a lot of returning students. We are excited about our partnership with Eastern Kentucky University. We will be adding up to three weekend performances away from the facility,” Collier said.

Music education is a passion for The Salvation Army, as it is for Dr. Collier, for a variety of reasons.

“I think it is important for people to understand that music education is not simply to train someone to be a professional musician but to learn to be an appreciator of the arts. In college, many of my fellow band members had majors in other fields,” Collier explained these fields were medical, scientific, and the humanities.

Playing the guitar is a creative outlet students will enjoy throughout their life.

Dr. Collier said that learning music promotes ability and that music students learn a desire to create good work instead of average work. This goal can then be applied to all subjects of study.

As “Music in Our Schools” Month is celebrated in March, The Salvation Army rejoices every day that music study helps create a positive attitude toward learning that develops the whole child – mind, body and spirit – including a child’s imagination, a God-given gift.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, go to for additional information.

Character Building Taught Early at The Salvation Army

Captains Matt and Danielle Cunningham enjoy leading youth in The Salvation Army.

Moonbeams, Sunbeams, Corps Cadets Programs Show Youth How to be Leaders

As the nation celebrates Youth Leadership Month, The Salvation Army focuses on its character building activities for young members.  One of the ways The Salvation Army Kentucky-Tennessee Division does this is through the work of Divisional Youth Leaders and Captains, Matt and Danielle Cunningham.

“Our character building program starts at ages two to five. They are called the Moonbeams and it’s for boys and girls.  Older girls progress to Sunbeams, then progress to Girl Guides.  The boys are Explorers and progress to Boy Guides.  It is similar to the Boy and Girl Scout programs. If you are familiar with the American Heritage program, their program is similar and uses some of the same materials. The kids earn badges and patches as they progress and learn skills,” Captain Matt Cunningham said.

Corps Cadet campers enjoy the vacation experience at Camp Paradise Valley.

The Salvation Army offers these positive ministry programs and events for young people to help them develop a strong character while also helping them understand God’s love for them through a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.

The youngest children in the character building programs, the Moonbeams, make a pledge that if followed by all would make a wonderful world:  “I promise that I will try to love God, to help everyone, and to always do my best.”  The Moonbeam Prayer is equally inspiring: “Help us to do the things we should, to be to others kind and good, in all we do at work or play, to grow more like Jesus every day.”

“Kids in the program are often underprivileged and often don’t have home or life skills.  These programs have a Christian faith background, help kids to develop a vision, and show them the steps to get there,” Cunningham said.

The programs offer a holistic Christian education experience for girls and boys with the goal of helping them to develop positive social and communication habits, artistic flare and giftedness through a Biblical worldview, Christian values and Biblical principles.

The beauty surrounding Camp Paradise Valley is an inspiration to the Corps Cadets.

The Explorer and Sunbeam programs are organized into individual troops, and sponsored by the local Salvation Army corps. Volunteers and Salvation Army personnel provide leadership. Meetings are usually held in corps community or service centers.

“It’s a way we get to see them every week at youth programming night, usually Wednesday nights. The kids also get a week at Camp Paradise Valley in the summer where they get to work on earning the harder patches.  We don’t charge the kids anything to come to the meetings or to go to camp.  For many of the kids, it’s an opportunity, maybe their first, to have a vacation and be away from the responsibilities or troubles at home,” Cunningham said.

Having fun is a great way to teach leadership and character building skills.

“We are teaching them character building but also giving them a chance to relax and be kids.  They are getting fed both physically and spiritually. They are learning how to look outside themselves and to be community citizens,” Cunningham said.

Honoring our country through raising the American flag is one of the experiences in which campers participate.

The purpose of Adventure Corps, Sunbeam Corps and Corps Cadets is to provide a program that gives a child an opportunity for personal growth spiritually, mentally, physically, socially; and to increase their understanding of service to others by exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

“These programs are the place we come to gather and train for our mission. Junior Soldiers in first to sixth grades.  They go to classes and learn history and how the church works. Corps Cadets is from seventh grade on through twelfth grade. It is a five-year disciple training course. The Corps Cadets are members of The Salvation Army Church where you first become a soldier. It teaches them to be leaders in the church and the community,” Cunningham said.

The programs help young people develop leadership skills and character by providing real-life opportunities to practice.

“They do community services like help at the soup kitchen or visit a nursing home.  They give an account of that experience and give a written statement,” Cunningham said.

Making s’mores is something Moonbeams especially enjoy at Camp Paradise Valley.

Many Corps Cadets go on to take roles in The Salvation Army as adults – as did Dan Duncan with the Christian Education Division of Kentucky-Tennessee Division.

“I did Corps Cadet as a teenager. We talked a lot about the biblical leaders and studied the apostles. During those years, I learned leadership and engaged in evangelism through teen nights. From personal experience, I understand the importance of these groups in developing leadership skills in youth,” Duncan said.

Learning a Biblical worldview by encouraging a sense of personal identity and character through Christian values and Biblical principles is one of the biggest goals of the program.

“Providing an example from scripture and applying it to today’s culture empowers the Corps Cadets to look at the truths in the Bible to find solutions to today’s challenges. The greatest challenge for today’s young people is finding a community and engaging in community life and discovering how to interact in it. The Corps Cadet program helps youth find their place in the world,” Duncan said.

Kids, however, aren’t the only ones benefiting from the youth leadership programs at The Salvation Army.

“It’s restorative to adults working in the programs, too, because they get so see the positive impact their leadership and teaching have on the youth. The process, the methodology of applying biblical principles to the culture is important. The strength is not in finding a simple answer but realizing how difficult the challenges are and coming up with a solution,” Duncan said.

Dan Duncan teaches archery to Corps Cadets from the Owensboro, Kentucky Corps.

In today’s world of school shootings and rampant drug abuse, many children are confused and feeling hopeless.

“These programs enable them to not feel so powerless. You feel less powerless when you are part of something, a community, and you know your place in the community.  That’s what the Corps Cadent program does. It gives kids a community,” Duncan said.

If you know a child who would benefit from these programs, getting involved is easy, simply ask.

“Anyone interested just needs to contact their local Salvation Army, inquire about when they have youth programs and character building, and ask to speak with the Corps officer,” Cunningham said.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, go to for additional information.

College Loan Long Repaid Continues to Drive Donations to The Salvation Army of Paducah

Lars Blythe is the senior member of BlytheWhite. Since childhood, he has been actively involved in The Salvation Army.

Family and Church Show the Way to Successful and Happy Life for Lars Blythe

Lars Blythe is a busy and successful man as the senior member of BlytheWhite, a Paducah, Kentucky, firm offering tax, financial planning and accounting services. He is also a modest man and the last thing he wants to do is talk about himself.  However, if the subject is how The Salvation Army helps its fellow mankind and how it helped him as a young man, he’s happy to tell his story.

“I just grew up in The Salvation Army. It provided a good foundation for my life and it continues to today. My parents started in it when they were teenagers before they were married. It’s where we went to church,” Blythe said.

His parents are Lars and June Blythe of Paducah.

“My parents still go. They are 80 and 78. I’m 60. My wife, Molly, and I attend the First Baptist Church of Paducah,” Blythe said.

BlytheWhite, a Paducah, Kentucky, firm offering tax, financial planning and accounting services, participates yearly in Red Kettle drives and the Angel Tree program.

Exposure to beliefs and values are one of the strongest influences parents have over their children. The way in which parents expose their children to values is important.  For example, if parents value education and teach values that improve society, it increases the likelihood their children will embrace these values.

Blythe explained this is exactly what happened in his own life.

“I was involved with the youth programs at The Salvation Army. I did the summer camps. Our family was a normal American working class family. We never lacked a meal. We weren’t wealthy and my dad worked at a plant. My mom worked at The Salvation Army Thrift Store, then later as a bookkeeper and in social services. My dad used to work The Salvation Army’s emergency canteen. My mom was the young people’s Sargent Major. To me, it’s just life,” Blythe said of being a child growing up in The Salvation Army family.

“When I was in college at the University of Kentucky, I had exhausted everything I had saved for college by the end of my third year.  My mom told me about The Salvation Army program where they loan money to college students. I applied for it and they loaned me $3,000. That loan allowed me to finish school,” Blythe said.

The Salvation Army offers the program because it believes a college education is an investment in the future. According to the organization’s website, it makes the loans available to its members “in the hope of a better future with Salvationists prepared to lead in their communities, in their work places, in their churches and in their homes.”

Lars Blythe and his wife, Molly Blythe, have made fundraising for The Salvation Army a family tradition.

Blythe’s gratitude to The Salvation Army for that no interest loan has been immense.

“I repaid that loan in four years and my wife, Molly, and I started an accounting firm,” Blythe said.

Now every year he “repays” the loan again to The Salvation Army of Paducah.

“We donate at least as much as my scholarship every year as our way of giving back since we’ve achieved success. Our firm also commits to a day of ringing bells around Paducah every Christmas season and we adopt an angel tree and support a family every year,” Blythe said.

Lars and Molly Blythe and their daughter, Catherine, and her husband, Andrew DuPerrieu, also serve on the advisory board of The Salvation Army of Paducah, Kentucky.

The Blythe family is an example of how parents directly teach their children values through religious education, teaching right from wrong, rules and expectations. Indirectly, parents socialize and instruct their children by example. Children watch their parents interact with others, make choices, and this impacts how they develop their moral self.

“I believe in the ministry of The Salvation Army and the services they provide. We have a lot of hurting people, like all communities. It’s a family tradition. My kids are supporters. It’s a family acknowledgement of the role The Salvation Army has played in our lives,” Blythe said.

With more than 1 million nonprofits, making a decision on where to donate can be difficult.

For Lars Blythe, the decision is easy.

Lars and Molly Blythe enjoy University of Kentucky basketball games.

“The Salvation Army provides the best return on any investment of any charity. I like that the donations go directly to people who benefit. The Salvation Army does that,” Blythe said.

The ideas communicated by parents to children and supported within the home help to develop good habits being formed by their children. The Blythe family is a great example of three generations of a family actively involved in doing what they can to make their community and the world a better place.

When he’s not working, Blythe says he likes spending time with his family – especially his growing number of grandchildren who are sure to be the next generation helping their community.

“To me, it’s just life,” Blythe said.  What a wonderful life it is.


Lars Blythe enjoys celebrating the good in life.

If you are a college student interested in applying for an educational loan through The Salvation Army, contact your home Corps Officer for application procedure details and go to,

If you are interested in volunteering or donating, go to for additional information.