The History and Impact of The Salvation Army’s Musical Ministry

Music students of The Salvation Army’s Kroc Community Center in Omaha, NE

As the originator of congregational singing in church, Martin Luther felt that music was of God, not of man. So strong were his beliefs about music and worship that he wrote, “Next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure of the world. It controls our hearts, minds and spirits.” His beliefs led him to become a prolific hymn-writer. Among his works is arguably one of the best known hymns, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” composed in 1529.

336 years later in 1865, the church was full of song and The Salvation Army was just getting off the ground. As a tactic to attract people and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to outsiders, Salvation Army founder William Booth and his volunteer army took music beyond the church walls to the streets. From those early beginnings, Salvation Army choirs and brass bands have been an integral part of the Army’s ministry. In 1907, as Booth watched the New York Staff Band on parade in Washington, D.C., he proudly exclaimed, “The music of the Army is, or will be, everywhere!” Indeed, the music of the Army can be heard in 126 countries throughout the world.

Music provides both the expression of a joyous faith and a form of recreation. Many Salvation Army Corps and Kroc Community Centers offer free music programs for children and teens as a way to advance their skills, provide future opportunities, and open their eyes to the many gifts of God.

The following short documentary about the history and impact of The Salvation Army’s brass music was produced by Stephen M. Ditmer and is most certainly worth watching. If you would like to learn more about The Salvation Army’s music programs in your area, please visit for a list of locations near you.