MARCH 19-20, 2021 – The New York Staff Band has been fortunate enough to continue its ministry through musically and spiritually inspiring virtual concerts over the last several months.

There are, however, certain dates on our yearly calendar that we always look forward to (perhaps more than others). Last March, just as COVID headlines were hitting the US and many of us were told that we would be working from home for a couple of weeks, the band sadly had to cancel the much-loved Future All Stars weekend. A year on, and not looking like an in person FAW2021 would be possible, the plan was put in place to implement the first ever Virtual Future All Stars event.

Around 50 students registered for the weekend which would allow them to play along at home with the NYSB who were set up in socially distanced formation and being streamed from the Crestview Conference Center at Territorial Headquarters in West Nyack, New York.

Lt. Colonel Kathy Steele (cornet), in her first engagement as the bands Executive Officer, made some introductions, welcomed and prayed with the band and students and then turned things over to Bandmaster Derek Lance.

Large screens hung behind the band which displayed the Zoom room that the students were gathering in. Band members would periodically turn and see the kids playing along from all kinds of places with one family even having dinner in the kitchen in the background! This offered a unique perspective for parents to see what actually goes on at a FAW event rehearsal even if not quite the same thing.

Major Shaun Belanger (Territorial Candidates Secretary) brought an entertaining and impassioned devotional to the entire group before the band finished up playing for the evening. The first night ended with a virtual Kahoot trivia game hosted by Mark Baker (trombone) and Matt Hodgson (horn).

The next morning was perhaps a highlight of the weekend as the players moved into separate Zoom rooms for “sectional” masterclasses.

The NYSB is indebted to an actual All-STAR line up of guests that gave of their time and expertise to coach and demonstrate each section of the band. The line up was:

Philip Smith – Cornets
Sheona Wade – Horns
Dudley Bright – Trombones
Philip Broome – Euphoniums
Derek Fenstermacher – Tubas
Jacob Slous – Percussion/Drum Set

Phil Smith was so engaging and passionate about playing the trumpet and praising the Lord! He encouraged us to go “back to the basics” not only in our playing but in our faith. – Alexis Dill (Cornet – FAW delegate)

The Euphs and Bari’s were lucky to spend time with Phil Broome of the West Point Band. Getting a job playing euphonium is more difficult than making it to the NBA, so we were all ears. Phil’s playing on the Wilby Euphonium Concerto was spotless and his insight into all things euphonium were a huge benefit to our young Salvationist musicians!Aaron Vanderweele (Euphonium)

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Jacob Slous spoke about the importance of being creative in your practice and expanding your musical “tool box”.Daniel Guillame (percussion)

Sheona Wade provided an engaging hour of tips and suggestions to improve our playing. Her  love, enthusiasm, and mastery of the tenor horn were evident as she gave instruction (focusing on breathing). She proved be very inspirational for each of the delegates. Interestingly, she also pointed out that her very first tenor horn teacher was a Salvationist. Major Donald Spencer (Solo Horn)

Dudley Bright is an icon, there’s no way around it! The Future All-Stars as well as the members of the NYSB trombone section were very fortunate have some time to learn from him. – Mark Baker (Trombone)

Derek Fenstermacher is one of the busiest American tubists out there at the moment but took the time to work with our students in an engaging and entertaining manner. His display of lyrical playing was fantastic and reminded us that the tuba can be a solo voice as much as the foundation of the band. – Simon Morton (BBb Bass)

Following masterclasses, the band came back together and started the final playing session of the weekend interjected with another inspirational devotional, once again from Major Shaun Bellanger.
It was great to see some of the guests stay on for the final rehearsal and even better to see our very own Derek Smith login as to not miss supporting this important event – something he blesses us with each year! At one point during this rehearsal, almost 70 people were logged on to the Zoom meeting to participate. The handling of the Zoom room was expertly done by Andrew Boynton (percussion) and the entire weekend couldn’t have happened without help from a great tech and sound team.

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The NYSB was happy to implement VFAW2021 but probably would not want to do it this way again…The experience of gathering so many young Christian musicians in one place has a profound impact on the NYSB each year and has certainly been missed in its usual form. Here’s to FAW2022 and praying we can all be together again.

As the students logged off, the band had a quick lunch and changed into Festival Reds to record its next virtual concert that will be hitting your screens in a few short weeks. It was a long weekend of playing and a difficult recording session as THREE new major works were premiered in addition to more great music, sure to inspire and bring glory to God!

Simon Morton (Deputy Bandmaster / Bb Bass)

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