In 1997 Mr. James A. Dick, prominent business leader and philanthropist, visits the W.O. Smith School in Nashville. Impressed by their mission of providing low cost music lessons to low income children, he decides to bring the idea back to Knoxville.

Later that year Mr. Dick gathers fellow business leaders, community activists, and music educators and founds The Joy of Music Youth Music School. The School begins operations in the fall of 1998 providing free music lessons to the disadvantaged youth of the Boys of Girls Clubs of Knoxville.

With a volunteer board and one staff member they undertake the mission of providing a quality music education to financially disadvantaged, at-risk youth. The founding board president is F. Michael Combs. The School begins in the Moses Center in space provided by the Boys and Girls Clubs with Anne Marie Begley as the first primary music teacher and coordinator or the music program.

November 2000

In November 2000, The Joy of Music School becomes a 501(c)(3), nonprofit corporation.

January 2001

In January 2001, the first Executive Director, Marisa Galick, is hired to manage the business operations for the School.

October 2001

In October 2001, the School begins a neighborhood program in which non-Boys & Girls Club members can also register to take free music lessons if they qualify as being from low income families.

July 2002

The community enrollment of the School grows so fast that in July 2002 the Board begins a search for a larger building for the School. After an exhaustive search the Board finds a new home.

August 2003

On August 6, 2003, The Joy of Music School moves from a cramped 900 sq. ft. space at the Moses Center to a 7,000 sq. ft. building at 1209 Euclid Avenue, only blocks away.

March 2005

On March 28, 2005, The Joy of Music breaks ground on necessary major upgrades to the School’s new home. The building is brought up to city building codes, requiring some modifications including an elevator, a second stairwell, and handicap accessible restrooms.

October 2005

October 2005, Julie Carter, a respected music educator and flutist with considerable international experience, is hired as director of music education.

November 2005

In November 2005 the new addition to the building is completed. Now the School is fully operational with a spacious lobby, a kid-friendly family waiting area, new restrooms and an elevator.

December 2005

In December 2005, conductor Francis Graffeo, formerly of Knoxville Opera and founder of the Rossini Festival, is appointed the School’s Executive Director.

January 2006

In January 2006 the School’s Board of Directors elects prominent attorney and musician Rick Carl as president.

February 2007

Ms. Julie Howard, attorney and singer/actor is named acting president in February 2007 as Mr. Carl is forced by pressing family matters to redirect his energies.

February 2008

In January 2008 (the School’s tenth anniversary year) Mr. Kenneth Dobbins, President of BankEast, begins his tenure as President of the Board of Directors.

August 2008

In August 2008 bassoonist Preston Sangster, student of Joy of Music Volunteer Teacher and University of Tennessee professor Keith McClelland, is the first Joy of Music School graduate to attend college as a music education major at the University of Tennessee School of Music.

September 2008

In September 2008 guitarist Nate Montgomery is the first Joy of Music School graduate to return as a Volunteer Teacher after studying guitar at the School from 2004-2007.

January 2009

In January 2009 Mr. Larsen Jay, President of DoubleJay Creative, succeeds Dobbins as President of the Board of Directors.

March 2010

Dr. Kurt Weiss, management consultant and professional photographer, becomes president of the board in March 2010 as Larsen Jay steps back into the role of board member. Mr. Jay’s action was taken in order to allow him to focus his energies on his growing motion picture production business.

June 2010

In June 2010, an agency purporting to be a documentary producer documents a pre-arranged volunteer who helps out at the School for a few days. By the end of that week it is revealed that the volunteer is actually a millionaire who makes a substantial donation to the School in her final moments with us. It is further revealed that the producers are actually the ABC Television Network, and the footage is to be used in an episode of a new program, “Secret Millionaire.”

August 2010

In August 2010 tenor saxophonist Marquis McGee, student of Joy of Music Volunteer Teacher and jazz great Jerry Coker, enters the University of Tennessee School of Music as a Studio Performance and Jazz major on full scholarship.
In August 2010 jazz pianist Taber Gable, student of Joy of Music Volunteer Teacher and jazz great Jerry Coker, enters The Hartt School, University of Hartford, as the first full scholarship recipient of the Hartt Performing Arts Scholarship.

January 2011

In January 2011 the Joy of Music School partners with the Knoxville Mentoring Initiative, which means standardized training for our volunteer teachers in the area of mentoring, thereby strengthening and deepening the relationship between our volunteer teachers and their students.
In February 2011, the School’s founder, Mr. James A. Dick passes away. His legacy lives on in the fine work of our volunteers and in the music made by the hundreds and hundreds of Joy of Music School children. We mourn his loss, but are proud to carry on the vision he created.

March 2011

In March 2011, ABC Television airs an episode of “Secret Millionaire” featuring the Joy of Music School.

August 2011

By August 2011 the School institutes mentor training as a part of its offerings to teachers. All volunteer teachers, in addition to orientation and various forms of teaching support, also receive training and instruction in the skills necessary to be mentors to the students they are teaching. Teachers learn how to form stronger relationships, and to understand the unique challenges financially disadvantaged children face.

December 2011

At the close of 2011 the School reaches record high numbers of teachers and students.

March 2012

In March of 2012, Trey Coleman assumes the position of president of the board of directors.

September 2012

In the fall of 2012, JoMS graduate, Breyon Ewing begins studies at the University of Tennessee as the sole recipient of the Grace Moore Vocal Scholarship.


In 2013, JoMS graduate, Preston Sangster, who had earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee on a full music scholarship, and was working as a music teacher in the Loudon County, TN Schools, is honored as “New Teacher of the Year” by that district. Also, JoMS graduate, Kristen Thames, enters the University of Tennessee on a music scholarship.


In 2014 the board of directors elects television producer and writer, Geoff Proud, as board president.
Also in 2014, JoMS graduate, Taber Gable, previous winner of a four-year jazz piano scholarship from the University of Hartford, graduates from that institution and begins graduate studies at the Juilliard School Graduate Jazz Studies Program under Wynton Marsalis.