Joy of Music School

Music Notes – Newsletter

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A Wonderful Way to Greet the Season

Wouldn’t you love to get all your holiday shopping out of the way in one night? Though it may sound like a Christmas miracle, that’s easily accomplished at the Joy of Music School’s annual Holiday Sparkles & Spirits fundraiser!

The fun starts at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 5, in the elegant ballroom at Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville. Tickets are $125.

Children from the Joy of Music School will melt your heart with their beautiful holiday music performance. Delicious wine and hors d’oeuvres will lift your mood.

And the shopping! Among the live and silent auction items you’ll find: Signed sports memorabilia, including items autographed by football legend Peyton Manning; overnight stays in deluxe area lodging; sumptuous dinners; collectible wines and limited edition bourbon; Knoxville Symphony tickets and more.

Best of all, it benefits our School. When you attend Holiday Sparkles & Spirits and purchase items, you’re helping more than 215 children attend free music lessons with free instruments right here in East Tennessee, with our outreach efforts instructing almost 1,000 more.

For reservations please call the School at 865-525-6806.

Special thanks to our top Holiday Sparkles & Spirits sponsors— Pilot Flying J, the Haslam Family Foundation, Dr. Sharon Lord, and Marsha Hollingsworth.


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Volunteer Teacher Spotlight: Sonya Eichler

Alyssa and her teacher, Sonya.

Sonya Eichler feels “very, very good” about her decision to volunteer as a piano teacher at the Joy of Music School, and we can assure her the feeling is mutual.

“I’m up there in years,” says Sonya, who is 85 and began teaching at the School about a decade ago. “It gives me something to do. It makes me feel like I have something to offer.”

Sonya taught a bit of piano at home when her children were young. But she notices a big difference between those days and now. “I was not in love with teaching back then,” she recalls. “It was somewhat fun, but not fun like the Joy of Music School. Now I feel I follow my own instincts as a teacher. I’m not working for money, I’m working for sheer joy of the activity. It’s very liberating!”

She cherishes the tight friendships she’s built with her Joy of Music School students—and none more than with Alyssa, her piano student for the past four years. “I’m so proud of her. She’s extremely bright and very musical. Just a wonderful person.”

Sonya and Alyssa’s family have become close friends, too. Sonya doesn’t drive any longer, so Alyssa’s family brings her to the School and back for lessons on Monday afternoons. They’ve been known to bring Sonya homemade vegetable soup for dinner, and when she returned from Boston recently, Alyssa was waiting for her at the airport with a bouquet of flowers.

“I adore all of them,” Sonya says of the family. “They’re simply warmhearted, kind, considerate, loving people.”


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Letter from the Executive Director

Francis Graffeo, Executive Director

One of the pillars of our existence is a practical matter—and it matters a lot: the destructive decline in public school music budgets. Schools all over are quietly dropping choirs, bands, or orchestras. In some schools they still exist but have been hobbled. Consider the time it takes a conductor and two assistants to simply tune a middle school orchestra’s instruments at the start of a 40-minute rehearsal. Then try it the following year with only one assistant. Then with no assistant. Sure, the orchestra still exists, but the conductor can’t keep up, and the kids lose.

Talent is withering as budgets wane. Want proof? Since the 1999-2000 school year, Knox County Schools has cut music budgets by 50.4 percent (adjusted to today’s dollars) while it has added around 9,000 students. Knox County residents below the poverty line—the families we serve—increased from 12.6 percent to 15.6 percent during the same period. Kids who have talent, work ethic and the need to develop themselves through the art and discipline of music are being left behind.

While beloved family philanthropists the Haslams made a remarkable gift this year in support of Knox County high school marching bands (thank you!!), they would surely agree there’s more to be done.

All of this motivates us to engage our community to serve our community. These are our kids. If we can’t convince the politicians, then let’s roll up our sleeves and make it happen here at the School, and in our outreach in the community. Give. Volunteer. Advocate. We’re an ensemble. Let’s play our parts!








Francis Graffeo

Executive Director


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Tevan to the Top


Our student Tevan recently got some exciting news from the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra: He’d been admitted to the organization’s top-tier ensemble on bass trombone.

“We’re so proud,” says our Director of Music Education Julie Carter. “He’s made just extraordinary progress. He’s very dedicated to what he’s doing.”

Tevan, a senior at Powell High School, auditioned in late August. He played a solo from a Derek Bourgeois concerto, an excerpt from Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra and a sarabande from a Bach cello suite.

Though he was a little nervous in the audition room beforehand, Tevan says he felt confident about his playing. Not long after, he got an email from the KSYO saying he’d made the Youth Orchestra. “It’s been really fun so far,” he says. “We’ve been playing since the middle of September, once a week. We’re rehearsing for a fall concert in November.”

Tevan started trombone lessons as a sophomore. He gives a lot of the credit for his speedy improvement to Myron Percy, his volunteer teacher at the Joy of Music School. “He’s a very good teacher,” Tevan says. “He helped me a lot with all my prepared pieces and the solo I did at the audition.”

That may be, Tevan, but it was you alone in the KSYO audition room – and you nailed it. Congrats to you!


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Mr. Fix-It to the Rescue

Kenny Webb

Kenny Webb has a hobby that we think is the greatest. That’s because our students are the grateful beneficiaries of it.

The retired electrician buys damaged violins, fixes them up, and donates them to the Joy of Music School. So far he’s brought us 10, with more on the way.

“I find a lot of them on eBay,” explains Kenny, who lives in Rutledge County. “Occasionally I’ll find one in a pawn shop or antique store.”

Most go for about $50 to $100, and they’re in non-working condition.

Kenny takes them to his in-home shop and replaces their missing or broken tuners, sound posts, bridges, tailpieces and more. He figures they’re worth $250 to $400 when he’s done.

He plays the violin himself, at church and in a bluegrass/gospel outfit called the Over the Hill Gang. His love of music is why he wants to support our students. Says Kenny: “It’s been a thrill to me, just knowing I’m helping these children get to play the violin.”


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Permission Granted

Southern culture has a lot going for it, including a heaping helping of music, and more than a skosh of generosity. We recently got grants from a trio of foundations with a distinctly Southern tone: the Country Music Association Foundation ($20,000), the Youth Endowment Fund of East Tennessee Foundation ($15,000) and the Bonnaroo Works Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee ($10,000).

This is our first gift from the CMA Foundation. Guided by the generosity of the country music community, the foundation’s focuses include improving and sustaining music education programs. The Youth Endowment Fund grant represents the largest gift from that fund in our history, although its parent, the East Tennessee Foundation, has supported our work over many years. Bonnaroo has generously enhanced our service to children and teens since 2012. Though our proper Southern manners might not allow for it, we just want to jump up and hug their necks. All of ‘em. Thank you!


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C-N Students Pitching In

We’re getting some extra volunteer help this year from a foursome of Carson-Newman University students, Liz Rogan, Sarah Akres, Peyton Bennett and Beth Ann Noble.

They’re working on maintaining and servicing our instruments, organizing our music library and assisting Executive Director Frank Graffeo. They’ll also be helping out at Holiday Sparkles & Spirits, our big fundraiser on Dec. 5.

The students are pitching in as part of a service-learning program called “C-Nvolved.” They’re all students in Prof. Jayme Taylor’s Music Teaching Methods class, the next-to-last course they take before graduating with degrees in Music Education. All intend to become music teachers.

Prof. Taylor describes their volunteering as “the perfect platform for this class and hopefully a great service for the School itself.”

It absolutely is, says Frank. “I hope this new program will continue to grow in the years to come. It benefits the students, serves the organization, and ultimately helps our Joy of Music School kids. That’s what we’re all here for.”

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