Editor’s note: View the video of the orchestra’s Easter performance of the Hallelujah Chorus HERE.
FORT KNOX, Ky. – A group of military youths have come together to create music and enhance the experience of those who attend services at the Fort Knox Main Chapel.
Seven teenage military children comprise the chapel orchestra and perform during service every Sunday together with pianist Karen Simmons and orchestra leader Janell Deckard. Deckard grew up a military child herself and has been leading the orchestra for the last 10 years.
She said her own experiences as the child of a Soldier have given her a deep understanding of how special something like playing in the orchestra can be for students.
“They move a lot and always have to make new friends,” said Deckard. “Here, they can make friends with peers who are in very similar situations to them. It’s been a great opportunity.”
Deckard said the orchestra doesn’t only benefit the children involved, but also those who attend services.
“It’s good for them to have the opportunity to play for people, but it’s also a blessing for our congregation to have youth involved,” said Deckard. “It just adds so much to the worship.”
Hope Moss, who plays saxophone and is in ninth grade at Fort Knox Middle High School, said she first learned of the orchestra in November when students were coming together to play for the Tour of Homes. The students dressed in traditional caroler attire and performed holiday music on the steps of Quarters One for attendees to enjoy.
According to Hope, there’s one thing in particular she loves most about playing music for the Fort Knox community:
“Being able to have an impact on people,” Hope said. “People come up to us and say how much meaning it has for us to play for them. They seem so grateful. I think that’s really cool.”
Hope said the orchestra has been especially wonderful because her father is a Soldier.
“Even though we move around a lot, we have a place here and that’s nice,” Hope said.
Hope is one of three groups of siblings who are involved in the orchestra. Her younger brother Elijah plays the violin, and her older brother Kaleb plays the euphonium. Kaleb said he enjoys playing other instruments as well.
“I play the tuba for our high school in the concert band,” said Kaleb, who is in 11th grade. “I also have a trombone at home and can play the saxophone a little.”
Although Kaleb said he’d been participating in music at school already, it wasn’t until he heard his sister playing during a Sunday service that he considered joining the chapel orchestra.
“I thought I’d give it a try,” said Kaleb. “I came here and just really liked it.”
In addition the enjoyment he receives from playing, Kaleb said the orchestra has also had a significant influence on his personal relationships.
“It brings us closer together as a group,” said Kaleb. “It honestly brings me and my siblings closer together too, which I’ve been trying to do for years; but with us moving all the time, it’s just harder.”
Kaleb said for him, there’s one other gift that playing together at the chapel has given him—
“being able to have opportunities here to play our instruments and show our talents,” said Kaleb. “We all look forward to coming and practicing, and then playing at the services.”
As he looks ahead to his senior year, Kaleb said playing in the orchestra has not only allowed him to better develop his musical abilities, it has helped the others as well.
“I can use the skills I’ve built here to push myself forward,” said Kaleb.
For Deckard, working with military youth in the orchestra is what she described as her greatest joy. She said she treasures seeing these brothers and sisters come together musically.
“Our practice days are always the highlight of my week,” said Deckard. “I think it’s important for children to see that they’re part of the service, and that they make a difference.”