Reported by Imani Wj Wright
I'll never forget my first day of classes at The Peabody Institute. I was nervous, stomach had butterflies, and truly was uncertain about my decision to take on the endeavor. Am I prepared? Do I know what the future holds? Will I embarrass myself? Those are all things I pondered while making my way to my private voice lesson. It was early, 10am to be exact. As the door in front of me began to open, the sun was unforgivably beaming in my eye. The moment had become a tangible reality. I was now face to face with my vocal instructor, Ms. Carol Cavey-Miles.
Ms. Cavey-Miles had me sit on a couch in the front of her room and asked me an assortment of questions. After a bit of a lengthy conversation, she said to me: "I realize you talk quite fast- we'll work on that." We didn't recite a single bit of music that morning as she took that time to gauge Imani Wj Wright as a human being before viewing me an artist. That morning and the two years I spent with Ms. Cavey-Miles thereafter left a lasting impact on my work ethic and more importantly, my life.
So, when I see entities like Joyner's School of Music, in Jacksonville, Florida, chills tend to run down my spine. I know and understand the importance of institutions as such. They have the ability to create a path for those who may not have even seen the path ahead. That's what music can do, but most importantly, that's what dedicated people like Irma and Kenneth Joyner can do, for many generations to come.
Joyner's School of Music was founded the way most great things are- out of necessity.
"We decided to open a school in our community for so many reasons. One of them is to inspire the youth and the community as a whole. We know that seeing a black opera singer has been taboo in our communities, so has developing strong sight-reading skills. I am a huge advocate of pushing sight-reading because so many of us love to sing or play an instrument but don't know how to sight-read our way out of a paper bag.” Said Ms. Joyner.
"This is one of the reasons I believe a lot of black musicians miss out on great job opportunities in music. If you can not sight-read, it limits your options. So, my husband and I have developed a program called Junior Jam Sessions which allows children as young as a year old to learn skills such as sight-reading, and understanding pitch recognition. We develop their ear, they get to laugh, sign and have fun learning with my husband and I every week." She added.
With the novel COVID-19 virus impacting the way we've had to interact with one another, Joyner's School of Music had to take a hiatus. Their mission statement reads: "Our mission is to inspire, teach and nurture our students so that they can achieve greatness in their lives. Everyone deserves the opportunity to grow into the best version of themselves. We will help you move towards your greatness." So of course, they found a way to keep things moving. Joyner's School of Music has gone virtual, with the same passion and values upheld. When the goal is to progress and propel the youth, they had no other options but to keep it moving.
Though music is the leading focus of Joyner's School of Music, the overarching growth of character and self-assurance is also emphasized.
Ms. Joyner told SwanoDown:
"I have witnessed my students gain confidence in their ability to think more critically about the music they are creating and become more aware of how the music they perform changes the world."
"I hope for my students to gain the skills to motivate themselves and others, literacy skills in their first language as well as other languages, communication skills, relationship and networking, critical thinking skills, leadership and business skills."
Joyner's School of Music (Website):