The Salvation Army Trenton Corps has recently launched a new Music & Creative Arts program for children throughout Trenton. The program offers students ages 7 to 16 the chance to receive a wide range of instruction including guitar, piano, brass instruments, dance and performance at Salvation Army events throughout the year.

The Music & Creative Arts program is designed to give children, who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance, the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. It also compensates for the fact that most schools’ creative arts programming is on hold due to COVID-19. The in-person program adheres to strict COVID-19 safety requirements, with each child having a divided station of their own.

“If we can provide a safe environment that could provide something clean to the community, we’re going to do it,” said Lieutenant Alan Porchetti, the class instructor and runner of The Salvation Army’s Trenton Corps. “We are doing it, and we love to do it.”

Porchetti has been making music for 20 years. He studied music as a young person at The Salvation Army and is committed to giving back to and enriching students in the community, many of whose families have taken advantage of The Salvation Army’s food pantry and other services, especially since COVID hit.

“Our Music & Creative Arts program offers hope and gives young people a chance to explore their talents while joining together in powerful community expression. We offer something special, like learning to play a brass instrument, and it’s a great way to beat the social isolation caused by COVID-19,” said Porchetti. “Children need regular activities that give them purpose and bring out the best in them, particularly in parts of Trenton where arts offerings like this are scarce.”

When Lt. Porchetti first moved to America all the way from Argentina in 2001, the first place he visited was The Salvation Army. “They were the ones that introduced me to music,” he said. “The Salvation Army was the organization that embraced my whole family and said, ‘you know what, we can teach music to your children and we’ll help out the whole family,’ and that’s when I started falling in love with The Salvation Army more and more every single day.”

He continued, “The Salvation Army taught me music, and whatever I learn, I’m willing to give back to the community.”

Once Lt. Porchetti and his wife were appointed to the Trenton Corps location, about five months ago, he immediately began evaluating the need of the Trenton community. Through his observation, he saw a real need for safe, in-person education for youths in the community.

Determined to bring local children together in this socially-distant time, Lt. Porchetti reached out to some community partners to ask for a donation of supplies to create a safe space for learning. “I reached out to Home Depot, Robbinsville, and I said, ‘Hey, we need some paint for our classrooms; would you like to donate it,'” said Lt. Porchetti. “They were gracious enough to say, ‘You know what, feel free to choose whatever color you want, whatever paint brand you would want, and we will donate it.’ It was a blessing.”

Through his outreach, The Salvation Army Corps Trenton was able to completely repurpose the classrooms at 575 East State Street. Together, with a group of recruited volunteer helpers, Lt. Porchetti established four classrooms capable of teaching 12 students, each in a socially-distant manner between hung plexiglass panels.

Although the classroom setting may be somewhat different in set-up as compared to previous, non-pandemic years, the offer of an in-person social experience to learn is giving children a chance to socialize with peers their age. Eight-year-old piano student Kerry-Ann Freeman has been enjoying her weekly lessons in the program.

“I wanted to play piano so my mom signed me up,” she said. “I met new friends in [class]. My favorite part of the class is when we learn the C notes, D notes, and everything!”

Like young Freeman, the new students at The Salvation Army Corps Trenton are looking forward to their weekly lessons. As of now, there is still available seats for students interested in taking part in the program, as well as need for upbeat teachers with a passion for music to volunteer their time.

“If there’s anything that the community needs, I hope that they can rely on The Salvation Army,” said Lt. Porchetti. “We are here to serve our community; we are committed to Trenton; we are not going away from Trenton; we will be there for as long as we can; and we want to be there to provide the community with their needs.”

For more information and to register/volunteer for the program, visit https://easternusa.salvationarmy.org/new-jersey/trenton/ or call 609.599.9373.