Dan Wajda says his favorite part of playing with Summer Brass was the group’s trip to the Old Orchard Beach (OOB) Camp Meetings.
The band performed each night at the busy Pier as vacationers stopped to watch, an experience that was “very special” for Wajda, who plays the cornet at the Schenectady, N.Y., Corps.
“You have this big stage and people are milling around and doing their own thing and they just come by and stop and after that they’re hooked,” he says. “They stay there for a couple of hours sometimes. Instead of being on the beach or whatever, they’re part of what The Salvation Army has to offer.”
Wajda said, besides OOB, Summer Brass spent a week at Camp Tecumseh in Pittstown, N.J., teaching young people about music before taking trips to the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps and Community Centers in Boston, Mass., and in Philadelphia, Pa.
The band, led by Derek Lance, ended its tour in August at Star Lake Musicamp with a finale concert.
Wajda said the entire experience was something he will always remember.
“Summer Brass is a unique experience because it brings you together with other people who have similar interests as you,” he says. “We all play music, we’re all in a band together, and we’re all spiritually connected as Christians and believers. It’s a unique environment to be in and it’s reinforcing.
“It’s just really special because you’re on the road for a month with these people and you really get to know them and it brings you close together with other believers. Like any Army group, you’re drawn together as Christians and as fellow musicians and players.”
Summer Brass is also a great opportunity for fellow musicians to “develop ideas and to bounce things off each other,” Wajda said.
“It’s a safe space where you know you can talk about anything and you know these are people you can trust,” he says.
Wajda, a recent high school graduate who plans to attend Union College in Schenectady this fall, comes from a rich musical background.
His grandfather, Don Ross, played the euphonium in the New York Staff Band in the 1950s and 1960s, and taught Wajda the cornet when he was 7.
“I grew up in a music–oriented corps,” Wajda says of the Schenectady Corps. “Playing an instrument in the Army has really opened me up to so many opportunities.”
Wajda, who has played in the senior band at his corps since age 11, was also chosen to play with a Salvation Army band last January at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
“That’s an opportunity I never would have had without the Army,” Wajda says.
by Robert Mitchell