Keeping the Music Alive

Jul 1, 2020

COVID-19 has taken a lot away from 18-year-old JJ Pook. “I was a senior in high school, so corona took away opportunities such as prom and graduation and just enjoying the last couple months of high school with my friends,” he said.

A cornet player with The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Brass Band, JJ also lost the chance to keep growing and performing as a musician. Not only was the band suspended for the rest of the school year, his trips to perform with Salvation Army divisional and territorial youth bands were cancelled. He also missed being able to play with the other band he belongs to, the Oakbrook Terrace Corps Band.

Music and The Salvation Army have gone hand in hand practically since William Booth founded the Army. So when COVID-19 prompted the stay-at-home orders in March, bringing all band practices, performances, lessons, and competitions to a halt, our musicians had to get creative to keep the music flowing.

For JJ, who chose the cornet “because it was the instrument my dad played and I always just stuck with it,” that meant taking his weekly cornet lessons online. Prior to the shelter-in-place orders, JJ had been taking weekly lessons in person with Bandmaster William Himes, JJ's beginners' instrument teacher since 2010. When those lessons had to stop, Dr. Jonathan Corry, divisional music and gospel arts director for The Salvation Army, offered JJ the opportunity to continue weekly lessons with him online. JJ jumped at the chance. 

Toward the end of March, JJ started meeting weekly with Dr. Corry via Zoom. For 45 minutes JJ practices sight reading, technique, solo work, and other exercises to improve his playing.

“I enjoy that the lessons give me a structure to follow,” JJ said. “Before, I would kind of be all over the place with my practicing. The lessons, however, give me specific things to practice and work on and eventually perfect.” One of six students Dr. Corry is teaching virtually this summer, JJ said, “It is also nice to have the guidance of a teacher that knows what they are talking about when it comes to music.”

As the stay-at-home orders continued, JJ also found the lessons a welcome break from watching his younger siblings while their parents, Majors John and Johanna Pook, have headed the Chicago Kroc Corps Community Center.

This fall, JJ will take his love of music to DeKalb, where he’ll attend Northern Illinois University. And his future with music? “In terms of goals, I just want to get better,” he said. “To me, winning an award, or sitting a certain chair, or making a band shouldn’t be our aim. Our aim should be to enjoy and cherish the gift God has given us – and of course to have fun while doing it.”

Learn about all the ways The Salvation Army is responding to the coronavirus – as well as how you can help – at salarmychicago.org/coronavirus


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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.


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