Q&A with Derek Lance, New York Staff Bandmaster
Q&A with Derek Lance, New York Staff Bandmaster
6 September 2019
It’s not every day that world-renowned bandmaster Derek Lance comes to town and tours the country. So we sent Wollongong-based musician Connor Hutchinson to pepper the head of the New York Staff Band with questions while he was the guest at the Future Brass Weekend in Victoria on 23-25 August. It was, you could say … just brassy.
Connor Hutchinson: Thanks for meeting with me today Derek! Tell us about yourself.
Derek Lance: I am an officers’ kid and have grown up all over the USA Eastern Territory, mostly in Ohio and Philadelphia. I ended up going to the Curtis Music Institute in Philadelphia and studied there for four years, then auditioned and got into Julliard Performing Arts School in New York City. I won a job in the military in the West Point Band and did that for six years, finishing up there in 2012 ... and I’ve been working for The Salvation Army since then – five years in the music department, and now three years as the Territorial Music Secretary (for the US Eastern Territory) and bandmaster for the New York Staff Band. I have also been married for almost 17 years. My wife Lorena plays the trombone in the staff band alongside me, and we have two daughters, Isabelle (10) and Caroline (8).
CH: What does your role as the Territorial Music Secretary involve?
DL: The most visible part of my job is when people see me with the Territorial Staff Band, but it’s kind of a small portion of it. We have our territorial music camp, which I’m part of, and a small publication house that I oversee where we publish both brass and vocal music, occasionally some piano and other things. We also have a staff songsters and territorial worship that I oversee. And more day-to-day things, like ongoing music programs through the territory.
CH: Why are you passionate about using music in ministry?
DL: If I’m being one hundred per cent honest, when I was growing up my desire was to be in an orchestra. I was going to be the best trumpet player in the world! But there came a time I knew I couldn’t live without doing things in The Salvation Army. I was given so many opportunities because of music in The Salvation Army growing up, so the idea of facilitating people just like me around our territory to be able to do so those same things was a big reason why I enjoy doing this. The other reason is I think that music is an incredibly powerful tool in ministry. Sometimes words don’t really do things justice, but music can bridge that gap and step in and lead people to a closer relationship with the Lord.
CH: Who are some influential figures in your music and spiritual journey?
DL: My first instructor/mentor growing up in Philadelphia was Harold Burmayer. And when I was mid-20s, Charlie Baker (from Montclair Citadel) gave me opportunities to lead the band there on a lot of really big pieces. I remember going to rehearsal and doing Truth of Flame and Edge of Time and all that sort of stuff and it was like, “There ya go, kid, enjoy!” I also worked for Ron Waiksnoris (former bandmaster for the NYSB) for close to five years. He’s been a great mentor for me when I worked there, and now that I’m in the role he was in previously.
CH: What has challenged you most since you became bandmaster of the New York Staff Band?
DL: I was 35 when I started and (former bandmaster) Ron retired when he was 67, so there were a lot of people sceptical that someone of my age could do that. But I think it goes to show that if you show up, you’re prepared, and you work really hard, that kind of answers a lot of questions. I think the other big challenge is that there’s just a lot of things happening, so people’s time is spread a lot more thinly than maybe 25 years ago. So I would say the major challenge is the people, but the big positive of it all is people! You can take young people on a journey, so that’s a great challenge but a great strength as well.
CH: What are the highlights of your time in Australia so far?
DL: Last night I was in Geelong to see their Just Brass program. After Future Brass I’m doing a concert with the Melbourne Staff Band, and I’ll go to Brisbane and spend some time with the Brisbane City Temple band.
CH: Who is your favourite Salvation Army composer?
DL: Leslie Condon. He was just way ahead of the curb. I think about what he would have come up with if he was still alive [and that] really intrigues me.
CH: How do you see brass banding impacting young people in 10 years?
DL: The one thing that’s really exciting in the USA is that outside of The Salvation Army the brass band thing is really growing for young people and adults. My one hope is that we don’t kind of give up of the brass band thing in The Salvation Army while it’s getting popular everywhere else.
Connor Hutchinson is an Illawarra-based composer and musician, currently in his final year of studying a Bachelor of Music (Composition) (Honours) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He serves as Deputy Bandmaster at Wollongong Corps.
Proclamation, the New York Staff Band’s album featuring Phillip Cobb, is now available at http://music.saconnects.org/product/proclamation/.