The Salvation Army Waxahachie Corps hosted its inaugural Bandmaster Mike McDonald Music Academy concert on Sunday, Dec. 15. The concert was an opportunity for students to showcase what they learned during the semester, and to celebrate the Christmas season.

Parents, grandparents, friends and relatives were invited to the Salvation Army to see their children perform.

Outreach Director Luis Villanueva said he felt the concert was a huge success and he attributed its success to student participation.

“This such a great success,” Villanueva said. “It has been amazing to see something that started as just an idea become something so great.”

He said watching all of the students grow as musicians, as well as individuals is what made this first semester so successful.

“The kids and the families is what made it such a success and fun for me,” he said. “I was not only able to teach them about music, but I was able to really become a part of their lives.”

Villanueva said he would often stop teaching just talk to the students and learn more about them. On one particular occasion, he said there was a student who dropped out of the program and he didn't understand why. He felt impressed to call the mother and inquire why her daughter was no longer participating in the academy. She informed him that her daughter had fallen behind in her schoolwork, and that took precedence over music.

“During that phone call I asked to speak with the daughter,” he said. “I took the time to encourage the student to focus more on her schoolwork so that she could come back and be a part of us. That very day she put her all into her work and was able to catch up and return to the academy.”

Villanueva said upon returning to the music academy the young lady thanked him for encouraging her to be more diligent in her schooling.

“This is not just about music for me,” he expressed. “This is about forming lasting relationships, and being there for young people. These students now have one more adult in their life who really cares about them.”

He said above watching all the students performing, the highlight of the concert for him was watching everyone in the congregation joining in the singing of Christmas carols and hearing the name of Jesus professed and proclaimed.

“You never know how many lives were touched that day by the love of Jesus,” he said. “There may have been families or people there who don't go to church or hear songs about Christ. But that day, everyone gathered in that place was singing the name of Jesus and that was beautiful.”

Villanueva said he is already looking forward to next semester and watching the academy grow. He said one of the ways they are hoping to do that is by adding brass instrument lessons, as well as art and drama.

“Next semester we will be adding brass in order to create a brass band,” Villanueva said. “We are going to select kids that have a desire to learn to play those particular instruments with the desire to see them perform at local events.”

He said the Salvation Army host a conservatory every summer, and they are expecting to send the brass instrument players there to gain even more insight.”

“We want to transform this music program into a true music academy,” he said. “That is going to take more students, more opportunities for instrument expansion and hopefully a dedicated building for our academy.”

He said that is where the people of the community are going to come in.

“We really need the people in the community to get behind what we are trying to do for homeschool students in Ellis County,” Villanueva said. “We really want to give them something they can call their own, and hopefully establish a career as well as grow in Christ.”

The Bandmaster Mike McDonald Academy was launched back in September as a way to reach out to homeschool students in the area. The Salvation Army felt that a music program would be the perfect way to do that, and believe it has paid off. They had a total of 70 students participate in the academy this semester alone, and believe it will continue to grow.

This is a free service the organization provides for home schoolers in Ellis County, and the spring semester is set to begin in February. For those homeschool students wanting to participate in the academy, The Salvation Army will host an orientation and registration event at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

To make a donation or to sign up for the music academy, contact Luis Villanueva at 972-854-9935 or email For more information about the academy visit

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