On a High Note

May 8, 2019

There are many things Melissa Alonso (pictured above on the right) didn’t know when she went to her first music lesson at The Salvation Army East Chicago Corps Community Center seven years ago. She didn’t know what a cornet was. She didn’t know she would wind up playing one for the next seven years. And she certainly didn’t know she’d one day play one at the Rose Parade on national television as part of an international Salvation Army youth band.

Back then she was simply an 11-year-old girl who didn’t really want to go to that first music lesson, but went anyway to make her mom happy. Thankfully, making music wound up making Melissa happy as well.

“It changed my perspective of music,” she said of those early music lessons. “Before that I’d only seen musical instruments in movies! I enjoyed learning something new. And I knew I was learning responsibility too.”

Melissa attended Army summer music camps and played at music competitions. “It felt good to win a few,” she said, even though she admits she was really nervous.

A Rosy Opportunity

Melissa, now 18, attends The Salvation Army’s Metro Youth Band practice one Saturday a month as well as two additional music practices at the East Chicago community center each week. “If you don’t practice, you don’t improve,” she said, to the pride, no doubt, of all her current and previous band directors.

This dedication caught the attention of Dr. Jonathan Corry, Divisional Music and Gospel Arts Director at The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division, who encouraged Melissa to try out for the Army’s Central Territorial Youth Band. She did, and got accepted, making her the first member of the East Chicago band who has made it into the Territorial band. “Melissa is one of the older band members. She shows leadership and teaches some of the beginner students,” Dr. Corry said. “I knew she was capable.”

Being part of the Territorial Youth Band gave Melissa the chance to play at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, this past January. “I was really excited to be there,” Melissa said. Though she was a bit worried about the 5-mile parade course – “I’m not used to marching that long,” she says – she was having such a good time that she was surprised by the time they reached the end of the route.

The members of her East Chicago Army community were very proud, and several members of her church recorded her on TV. “It was inspiring to have one of our East Chicago youth selected for this honor,” said Lieutenant Leta Marin, East Chicago corps officer. “This is an honor that Melissa has earned through years of hard work and dedication, and it is something that she will carry with her for years to come.”

A Bright Future

Melissa appreciates that the Army’s music program has introduced her to new people and places, and she plans to continue playing the cornet in college. The life skills she’s learned along the way helped earn her a college scholarship.

Dr. Corry said that’s exactly what he hopes young band members gain from their experiences. “Besides the obvious joy of learning and playing music, they get to be part of a team, enjoy camaraderie and learn self-discipline, powerful study habits and problem solving.”

Lieutenant Marin already sees these benefits in Melissa’s life. “We are extremely proud of all that Melissa has accomplished,” she said. “She is not only an accomplished musician, but she excels in school and serves with love and humility in church. Our hopes are that Melissa will use what she has learned here to build a bright future for herself and those around her.”

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