Erik Leidzén: His Lasting Testament
Four months before Erik Leidzén's birth in Stockholm, Sweden in 1894, his father, Staff-Captain Erik Leidzén, was promoted to Glory. His mother, Elinor, a charming and gifted Irish woman, was a pioneer Salvation Army leader who became a training school principal in Denmark.
Life might have been difficult for her, but she instilled in her three children a sense of service to humanity. Her teaching led her son to understand that God's precious gifts remain only when they are used to help others. Throughout his life Erik sought ways to share with others his gifts as poet, composer, arranger, conductor, beloved teacher and inspiring speaker.
His musical talent was recognized early. At the age of nine, he conducted Denmark's Staff Band and at ten, traveled as conductor with Army Founder William Booth in Denmark. After studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm, he came to the United States in 1915 where he taught piano and practiced composing and arranging.
In 1923, his musicianship and zest for living prompted Colonel William McIntyre to appoint him New England Provincial Staff Band Bandmaster. In 1929, at the request of Brigadier Alex Ebbs, Erik formed an instrumental ensemble for the New York Metropolitan Division and later, the Temple Chorus.
Tragically, in 1933 unfortunate circumstances led to his estrangement from The Salvation Army for many years. In those years he rose to become one of the nation's foremost musicians. In 1933, he became an arranger for the famed Goldman Band. His compositions and arrangements were regular features on the programs of premier college musical groups and leading military and concert bands. He conducted the United States Air Force Orchestra in the premier performance of his Irish Symphony, dedicated to his mother's memory.
More than thirty publishing firms sought his services. His book, An Invitation to Band Arranging, is considered a standard work on the subject. His constant activity, his prolific pen and uncompromising ideals expressed in his crusading spirit helped to lift band music throughout America and the world to the highest, most noble expression enjoyed today.
Recognized as a master-teacher, he taught for many years at the University of Michigan, New York University, the Ernest Williams' School of Music and as adjunct professor at other music colleges. He was a member of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 802, an officer in the American Society of Music Arrangers, a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and a motivating figure in the American Bandmasters' Association.
Salvationist-musicians owe a deep debt of gratitude to Commissioner Richard E. Holz. As a young officer he relentlessly pursued Erik. His tireless efforts and concern finally convinced Erik that he could once again make a positive contribution to Salvation Army music and to the lives and ministry of Salvationist music-makers.
And what a contribution he made! Salvation Army music bearing Erik Leidzén's name covers the entire field, from singing company and songster brigade to soloists from beginning band to Staff Band and instrumental virtuosi. The finest bands and soloists have recorded his music. Such titles as "The Cross," "Steadily Onward," "Concertino for Band and Trombone," "Pressing Onward," "The Children's Friend," "Tucker," "None Other Name" and "Songs in the Heart" are but a few of his compositions that are household words for the finest in Salvation Army music.
Lady In Third Row
There is a spiritual quality in his work that makes people return to it again and again. He did not write for the musician or connoisseur. His compositions were conceived instead with the hope of blessing "the little old lady in the third row."
Thousands of Salvationist youth received inspiration and spiritual insight from his visits to Army music camps throughout the nation, and rise up to call him blessed. Thousands also studied under his tutelage in Band Conductor Courses and in classes he taught at the School for Officer Training. He raised the tenor of the renowned Star Lake Musicamp in New Jersey through his teaching and inspiration.
Why were young and old so attracted to his leadership? First, when he walked into a room, he radiated physical fitness nurtured by his commitment to exercise and a vegetarian lifestyle. His appearance revealed keen intelligence and an interest and intensity in all he attempted. Even more important was his personal response to each one who sought his counsel at camps, school, concerts, at the corps. He took time to listen, instruct and encourage because of his concern for each individual. He followed in Christ's footsteps as an enabler.
Don Ross was one of those people forever changed by Erik's friendship. He met him first at Star Lake. Following that, Don began private music lessons with him. At the end of one lesson Erik, who was fluent in many languages and wrote poetry in several of them, realized Don's gift for language and encouraged it. Don developed his language skills with formal education and became the leading international lawyer for the General Electric Company. In retirement he continues to teach and conduct young instrumentalists at his home corps.
Above all, Erik Leidzén was a follower in the Master's footsteps. He was guided by His spirit and lived intimately with the words of our Lord recorded in the Scriptures. One of Erik's favorite admonitions to his college classes and conductor courses was: "The world is filled with opportunities, and though we may vary in degree and variety of talent, God gives to all--and He expects to receive from all. Read the Parable of the Talents and, remember, the Source is the same."
A note written to Colonel Sallie Chesham, quoted in Erik Leidzén on Faith, reveals the depth of Erik's commitment to Christ:
We are all wont to draw the universe--life, truth, God--down to our own limited measure, and then strut about importantly thinking we have enriched ourselves. Why are we not content to be seekers? The horizon is there. Go for it! So we set out, and the horizon goes on before us as the pillar of fire did for the Israelites, and will continue to move along as we move, for the Kingdom of God is endless.
Perhaps no words better sum up the reason for Erik's lasting impact, even now fifty years after his promotion to Glory, then these by Dr. Ronald Holz in Erik Leidzén: Band Arranger and Composer:
All of Erik Leidzén served man and sought to praise God-in his art, in his teaching, and in his daily life. This was his lasting testament, reproduced in the hundreds--yes, the thousands-for those who catch but a part of his vision either through his music or his words, and then, "go and do likewise" to the best of their God-given talents.
Doctor, Soldier, Musician & Healer
USAF Major Bethany Mikles enjoys a challenging and fulfilling career in the armed forces serving as a pediatric oncologist. But she also seeks, during her spare time, to honor the Lord as a Salvation Army musician and bandsman in both her local corps and as a member of the New York Staff Band.
WC: What is your earliest musical memory?
Mikles: I grew up in an incredibly gifted musical family. I remember around the age of four, my dad sitting at the piano teaching me basics, and I remember as well taking guitar and trumpet lessons. It was just part of our normal growing up because my dad thought it was important.
WC: What was the first time music really meant something special to you?
Mikles: It goes back to seeing my dad, a Salvation Army officer, sing and play from the pulpit and the stage. I remember thinking how big music was in his ministry, how he was touching people, not just with his preaching but also through his music.
I remember coming home from school and sitting at the piano. That was kind of my release. I enjoyed orchestra, high school band and participating in the Salvation Army corps music programs. That for me was fun.
WC: As your profession which came first, the military or medicine?
Mikles: I knew I wanted to do medicine when I was about 14 years old. I started down that path for missionary work knowing that the need overseas was heavy for medical missions work. I did that for a few summers and even a year in Africa prior to actually attending medical school. In medical school, I joined the Air Force as a way to give back. They paid for school completely so it was a bonus financial relief as well. I felt called to minister to families that were going through trying times.
WC: Explain how pediatric oncology impacts your life.
Mikles: People's reactions change when I tell them what I do. They go from "What do you do?" to "That must be hard." In reality, pediatric oncology is a very uplifting and encouraging field. Survival rates are over 80% for pediatric cancers in general. Treatment also does very well with other types of lymphomas and leukemias to the point where it is close to 90%. Knowing that you are giving a kid his entire life by treating his cancer is very rewarding. In clinic, I love seeing my follow-up patients who have been off therapy for a year. They are full of life. That's why I do it. There are hard cases and there are hard patients, but it is incredibly rewarding.
WC: The issue of children having cancer is a parent's worst nightmare. Tell me how your faith intersects with this most challenging field.
Mikles: I find that most families going through this tend to gravitate toward some sort of religious experience. Most families know that I am a Christian. Generally, the ones that share my faith ask me to pray with them and I am happy to do that. I am not allowed to push my religion on anybody, but people know that I believe in the healing powers of medicine as well as the healing powers of Christ.
There are hard times. Just this past month I have lost two of my patients. They are precious kids and families, and I really got to know them over the course of two years. I don't think I have ever doubted, simply because my faith in God is strong enough and I know that He is in it all. Ultimately, these kids had an end to their suffering. It was their ultimate healing.
God often speaks to me through music in my moments of doubt or struggling. A song in my head will be God's word to me to help and encourage me. No matter where I am, there is this interweaving of some piece of music that is a powerful thing. Besides Scripture, I don't think anything else has that power.
If you are strongly seated in the will of God, then you are to minister in that field. I have come into medicine knowing this and faith has kept me through all the hard times of pediatric oncology.
WC: How does music play into your professional life?
Mikles: It provides a little bit of sanity for me. It gives me time when I do not have to make life or death decisions and I do not have to report to superior officers. It is a time of release to escape my life for a little bit.
WC: Define excellence.
Mikles: I am learning as I get older that excellence is not perfection. I have always put a weight on myself to be perfect at everything and there is no way as humans that we can be perfect. I am learning that being the best that I can be is not being perfect because, apart from Christ, nobody is perfect. Excellence is really allowing yourself to open up to whatever God has for you.
Jeff McDonald is Managing Editor for the War Cry.