(Above) Participants at adult music camp at Jackson’s Point Conference Centre, Ont., hit the right notes (Photo: Craig Lewis)

To some, having a brass band may seem like an anachronism. I wholeheartedly disagree with that sentiment. To me, a brass band is a modern musical tool that does far more than just entertain. Here are some of the specific benefits that a brass band brings to individuals, your corps and The Salvation Army corporately:

  1. Outreach. Music can grab people like words seldom do. Music can entertain, draw attention and even bridge the gap between the often-insular language of the church and the world beyond our doors. It is also flexible in style and genre; adaptable to speak to diverse crowds in their own musical interest. “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all” (Mark 16:15 The Message).  
  2. Community. A brass band is a place to belong—a family. In today’s world, where people are glued to electronic devices or working from home, we are more alone than ever before. A band can be a vibrant small group that actively engages in both worship and service together. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5).
  3. Discipleship. Every week, musicians gather in both rehearsal and worship, where they are exposed to the Word of God and challenged to grow in their faith and witness. Whether it’s through the weekly group devotions or understanding the words and meaning of the music they are playing, there is a huge opportunity to grow disciples. “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12).
  4. Mentorship. We have few ministries in the church that are as crossgenerational and welcoming of new Christians as our brass bands. How many of our young people have been mentored by that seasoned musician sitting beside them in the band? They’ve been taught everything from musical skills to discipline, teamwork and commitment—valuable skills that are transferable to so many areas of life. “Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost” (Proverbs 22:6 The Message).
  5. Worship. Making music in this setting is an active expression of worship. Music is one of the many ways that God communicates with us. Corporate and participatory worship brings us closer to both God and our fellow humans. “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
  6. Public Relations. Brass bands are a distinct part of The Salvation Army’s brand. This is most visible at Christmas when our ministry engages in fundraising within our communities. It is a well-known fact that having live brass playing at your kettles has a positive impact on the donations received. If you were running a business and revenue growth could be attributed to a particular factor, you would invest time and energy in sustaining and growing that component. Likewise, if brass bands do so much for the organization at Christmas, then it would be prudent to invest in them all year round. “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind” (Proverbs 21:5 The Message).
  7. Diversity/Inclusiveness. Age, race, gender—none of these things matter in a brass band. Instead, we become one in mission and ministry. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8).

I’m sure that you could come up with your own reasons in addition to mine. I leave you with this quote from Martin Luther: “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Now what are you waiting for? Get to band practice!

Craig Lewis is the territorial secretary for music and gospel arts.

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On Tuesday, December 28, 2021, Tom Rath said:

I am not a multigenerational Salvationist. My wife and son learned to play at the required level and I even conducted a Junior Band. Caution is required to ensure we worship with music, not THE music!!!

On Tuesday, October 19, 2021, Smith John said:

As a member of the Corps band and Divisional Fellowship band I see regularly the Spirit working through the ministry, and great fellowship with each other. I love that I can serve the Lord and receive blessings galore through the ministry. Banding is still a great ministry, and as the numbers may diminish, perhaps the public will be even more attracted to them. Keep on believing, keep on blowing. Blow the doubters and moaners away!!

On Sunday, October 17, 2021, Emily Hutchinson Kardolus said:

I have to agree with Cavell Loveless on some points. The SA band community is more exclusionary than inclusive and leaves out a great swath of potential seekers of fellowship. In the old days the band was a part of outreach with marches and canvassing neighborhoods and kettle duty at Christmas, now, they are not allowed to march, even bell ringing-jingling is a no in malls and stores. (Although even the evening services are no longer held and alter calls are infrequent ). A lot has changed, the old traditional worship songs are not sung. Songs that spoke to the soul replaced with short phrases, repeated annoyingly. So outside the church the band has been reduced to a once yearly public concert. Inside the church, worship is structured formally, but content is worship “light”. Public Relations has

On Saturday, October 16, 2021, Cavell Loveless said:

I am always cautious about expressing my opinion on certain topics in any public forum, but after careful and prayerful consideration of what to say, I feel compelled to write a response to this article as well as the many comments I’ve read online as a result of the post.

I would quickly add that I cannot begin to count the number of times that I have been blessed, and often moved to tears, by the ministry of music by a Salvation Army brass band. I value the contribution made and ministry provided in many Corps by this form of music, having been in a few Corps with a brass band.

That said, I think that perhaps the author would have done better to state that this is, ideally, what Salvation Army banding and band members ‘should’ be about instead of leaving us with the impression that this is reality in all SA banding. Sadly, it is not always the case.

While I have concerns about a few points, I do disagree with one statement in particular. The author writes: ‘We have few ministries in the church that are as crossgenerational and welcoming of new Christians as our brass bands.’ I beg to differ! I have seen where new people, both saved and unsaved, have been gladly welcomed into any number of programs offered in the Corps, programs that are not as exclusive as brass banding. Brass bands, by nature, would tend to be more exclusive than inclusive to the majority of Corps members. Over the years, I have witnessed lots of young people arriving at a new Corps, or perhaps even grow up in the Corps, and instead of being welcomed, they have been snubbed and made to feel ‘less than’ because they do not play a brass instrument, or perhaps not at the level expected for the current band, or they choose not to be a uniformed soldier, or their musical preferences, abilities and skills are with instruments other than brass. I have known of band leaders who have verbally abused young people whose standard of playing is ‘not up to snuff’ in their estimation. Unfortunately, I have also observed many band members whose lifestyle, outside of wearing a uniform and playing in the band on any given Sunday, displayed anything but Godly character, character which is alluded to in this article. I know that some would be quick to say that these situations are rare, but they are more prevalent than we would care to admit. It is a sad statement when there is more concern about the standard of playing than the standard of living.

When I see some of the bickering and arguing that this issue incites, It grieves my heart, as I know it surely must grieve God’s heart, that people appear to be more concerned about a lost opportunity to play in a band or to hear a band play than they are about the lost!! We are, after all, The SALVATION Army! God help us!

On Saturday, October 16, 2021, Glenda said:

I go to a contemporary Corps with no band (although at Christmas time we have a small ensemble). I am over 60 so I suppose it's only natural that I love the band. It was how I was raised. I love listening to a brass band and singing along with band music. I also like worship teams as well. I'm open to any style of worship. But recently I visited a Corps in Halifax and was looking forward to hearing a band again and all I heard was contemporary music (with guitars and keyboard but not one brass instrument). I was so disappointed. Please please do not give up on banding. It not only blesses those of us who listen, but I am sure it is a ministry to those who play as well. What right do we have to take that away from those who give so freely of their talents, as well as their time. May there always be a place for brass bands in the Salvation Army. Our founder may be gone to glory, but the one we worship is still alive and has blessed this Army over and over again - banding included.

On Saturday, October 16, 2021, Rebecca Pretty said:

I agree with what Craig Lewis has to say. I also agree that there are many avenues of music to bring people into our churches.

I am an officer again as of this year. However, previously, I was a music educator and taught piano lessons on the side. I also had the opportunity to be a part of a very small community band. Here is what I have discovered about music education over the last 16 years from both teaching privately, and in the school system, as well as listening to my music educator friends who have been teaching BAND in the school system for the last 16 years.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s. During those years, children were still inclined to spend hours practicing music. However, today, we live in a MICROWAVE society (I call it). What I mean by this is, everything has to come quickly and easily. There's no time to wait for that scale to be perfect, they want that scale to sound perfect now. Reason: I think it has to do with technology. We are competing with technology and video games, etc. I felt that a lot in my first few years in teaching in the school system.

I love teaching piano lessons... love, love, love. I consider myself to be a gifted piano teacher. Students enjoy taking lessons with me (for the most part). But over the last 10 years, I have only had one student, in my career go as far as RCM Grade 10 in piano. I have had another two go as far as RCM Grade 6. The rest are fine doing chording and learning to play some pop...

So... let's get back to why some of our brass bands may be failing... students these days, do not want to put in the effort sadly to learn because they want it to sound perfect right away. Also, I think in order to get them from the start we need to probably do a better job of getting music that they can relate to so that they connect to it. Throw in the occasional song that they know because that certainly goes along ways.

On Friday, October 15, 2021, Dennis Welbourn said:

I feel strongly that the music of the brass band is another way of praising God. The music lifts my spirits. My wife and I have missed having a band at the Burlington Corps. and so we have moved on to the Meadowlands Corp. where we get a spiritual lift with the music and singing.

On Friday, October 15, 2021, Johnny Laird said:

There's still HUGE potential for Salvation Army brass bands to act as an entry point for people of all generations to connect with our mission, and Corps life and to let people know the Army is still here 🙂

With an outward looking approach, some imagination and creative programming Bands are a wonderful tool to both build community and serve those around us.

Initiatives like Just Brass in Australia, or the wonderful work done in Belfast bear testament to that.



Another approach I draw great inspiration from is the Whole Gritty City project in New Orleans. This is not an Army program, but I think there are lots of lessons we could learn about impactful, life changing music making in our communities, especially those who would benefit most from getting involved.



I don't buy the argument that any genre of music - whether brass bands, throat singing, hiphop, or bluegrass - is irrelevant 🙂 All and any of these, done well, authentically and with sincerity will always find an audience, and the same can be said of our very particular kind of music making. We still have a been given a gift of a culture of brass bands, a wonderful repertoire, players, teachers and a reputation. Let's see how we can best use that gift to serve and reach others 🙂

Point 7 - 'Diversity/Inclusiveness. Age, race, gender—none of these things matter in a brass band' Add 'sexuality' to the list of 'none of these things matter' and we're REALLY being inclusive 🙂

On Friday, October 15, 2021, Lorne Hiscock said:

The Salvation Army Brass Band from my Childhood days until this Present Time,it was and will continue to be the Music for me.Our Son Craig and our Two Daughters Trina and Leena,Grandson Dante.May God continue to use the Band to reach People Everywhere.

On Friday, October 15, 2021, Winnie Fisher said:

Finally; support for the Halifax band members who have been ( in my mind) treated unfairly! Closed down churches and removed all banding in those churches and not much hope for rebuilding! Many band members and band supporters are totalled devastated and have been let down by our “army” !! My heart breaks for them! WHY IS A BAND NOT PERMITTED?????

On Thursday, October 14, 2021, David Guy said:

I agree on all these benefits, having been a band member for a good portion of my life (although not currently). However, my observation is that bands focus on these very inconsistently. Regardless, banding is in decline and until the core reasons for this decline are addressed, talking about why bands should be supported is somewhat moot. There is a reason why banding is falling out of favor. On a related note, staff banding is failing in its duty and should also be dealt with. Perhaps there are some common root causes.

On Thursday, October 14, 2021, Juan said:

I agree with these points, especially with #1 & #4. When my son was in secondary school in Burnaby, he started playing the trumpet in his school's concert band and jazz band. He then picked up the French horn as well. We spent many nights over the course of 4-5 years going to concerts and were always amazed with how many kids were in band - perhaps 40-50 kids. We would go to city-wide school concerts and there would be a half dozen schools represented, all with equally-sized bands. It struck me that this could be an amazing opportunity for our local corps to connect with these kids and their families by providing weekly band practices and tutelage from experienced musicians in a positive environment.

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, Kevin Cameron said:

I found that Salvation Brass Banding gave me a "tether". Even after I got away from the church (and the Lord). It was seeing and hearing a Salvation Army Band that drew me back to church and eventually back to the Lord.

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, Concerned said:

In response to this article let me first confess a bias; I love Army band music. I played in two senior bands, led one, led a Y.P Band and was also heavily involved in our divisional music camp for many years. My CD collection also attests to my fondness for it. From the old "street marches" to the more modern, almost concert style works I love it all.

That said, there are questions I think need to be asked, and a few hard truths to be faced.

First of all, banding is in decline everywhere. There are fewer and fewer corps bands, with fewer bandspeople in them. From my visits to a number of corps across the territory I have noticed that bandspeople are also getting older, representative of the Army's ongoing struggle with its aging demographic. The reality is that younger people are simply not nearly as interested in learning to play a brass instrument ( letting alone understanding the ostensible reason of WHY they are playing)as they once were.

Secondly, what is the purpose of Army banding? Sure, there is the fellowship aspect that Craig sets out in his article, and that is great. But at one time sinners followed the band back to the hall from their Sunday evening march to hear the message of salvation. Conversion sometimes followed. Those days are long gone. But when, even, was the Mercy seat last lined with people following or during a band selection on a Sunday morning? Generally speaking, is a brass band a means to attract people to the Lord? Do the folks in the band have any knowledge of the message they are trying to convey? Does the congregation?

Thirdly, as corps attendance and band membership wanes finding the funds to purchase and maintain brass instruments has no doubt become and will continue to become increasingly difficult. Are there better uses for our "musical worship" dollars?

Brass banding in the Army is almost as old as the Army itself. It is indeed part of the very fibre of our being. But times have changed, and are changing even more rapidly. As such, there are some very difficult questions and sad realities to be faced as to whether or not Army banding can and indeed should survive into the future.

And, of course, just how much support should it be given?

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, Graham Wharton said:

Thank you so much for this.

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, J Francis-Edwards said:

Please our brass bands are another icon that every day people recognise, please do not let another Salvation Army disappear!

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, Maureen Phillips said:

I love the sound of the Salvatiin Army and especially my "FabFour" from Driffield, East Yorkshire may they long continue to spread the work of the Lord.

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, Tony Clack said:

I agree with everything you have said Craig 100% it has taken me ten years to build a band up to fifteen members in our corps here at Victor Harbor,Ten I have managed to get from the city band and they have since become Senior Soldiers,I myself am a Adherant. I have had no interest or help from previous officers or the Salvation Army.People around Australia admired our band.I could see the rot setting in when the Army decided to take the crest down from the front of the church and replace it with the red shield..now the issue here with the gay community etc.I have lost 90% of the band.I myself have left,being accused of putting the band first before Jesus.That was my way of expressing myself through my music..Actions to me speak louder than words,giving is recieving.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Paul Pope said:

Totally agree

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Brian sakwa said:

Very enlightening...keep it up. In our church we don't have the brass but we hope we shall acquire one.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Joan Nobles said:

Thank you Craig for writing on the need to support our brass bands ministry. I wholeheartedly agree there are numerous benefits of Army brass bands and have been personally lifted to a higher plane while worshipping both corporately and privately. Perhaps there are those who believe that the bands are considered "old and passe" and therefore "not useful". In my opinion, that is untrue and not helpful! Let's combine our rich tradtion and contemporary music ( there is room for both), we don't have to lose something in an attempt to try to enhance our Army's identity. Ultimately,our Army's musicians just want to honor and praise God in a fashion that they are accustom and countess others have come to love and appreciate. Just Praise the Lord!

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Ivor Snell said:

I 100% agree with your comments. Your enclosed photo is so wonderful and encouraging; many faces I see & I clearly remember them. So very pleased to work with and encourage during my active musical worship during my younger days back to 1965 in Ontario & with a number of U.K. bands. The WORSHIP groups has always been "The BEST for the highest", and may it continue..

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Nigel Schultz said:

Thanks for this article. I agree with your reasons. Our ministry is special in many ways and Brass Bands are a vital part of that special ministry.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Doug Peat said:

I read your 1st line and I was delighted. Then I read on.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Moira Mae Underwood said:

Surely all of the above can apply to any form of collective musicianship? Brass bands are at least 40 years out of date ans have no relevance to anyone under 40 who does not come from a Salvationist background.

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, reta may owens said:

If bands are so such an important ministry, please tell why churches in Halifax are being shut down with little explanation.

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