James A. Dick (1919-2011) Founder of the Joy of Music School

Marilyn Mandle Dick (1923-2019) Widow of James Dick. Beloved sustainer of the School.

In 1997 Mr. James A. Dick, 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 brings the idea home to Knoxville.

Later that year Mr. Dick gathers fellow business leaders, community activists, and music educators, founding the Joy of Music School. The School begins operations in the fall of 1998 at the Boys and Girls Club 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.

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

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

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.

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 a new home is found.

On August 6, 2003, The School moves from a cramped 900 sq. ft. space at the Moses Center to a 14,000 sq. ft. building at 1209 Euclid Avenue, only blocks away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In January 2008 (the School’s tenth anniversary year) Mr. Kenneth Dobbins, then president of BankEast, begins his tenure as president of the board of directors.

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

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.

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

Kurt Weiss, management consultant, becomes president of the board in March 2010 as Larsen Jay steps back into the role of board member and focuses his energies on his growing motion picture production business.

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.”

In August 2010 tenor saxophonist Marquis McGee, student of JoMS volunteer teacher and jazz great Jerry Coker, enters the UT School of Music as a Studio Performance and Jazz major on full scholarship.

In August 2010 jazz pianist Taber Gable, another student of Jerry Coker, enters the Hartt School, University of Hartford, as the first full scholarship recipient of the Hartt Performing Arts Scholarship.

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, and are proud to carry on the vision he created.

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

By August 2011 the School institutes mentor training as a part of its offerings to teachers. All volunteer teachers receive instruction in the mentoring skills. Teachers learn how to form stronger relationships, and to understand the unique challenges financially disadvantaged children face.

At the close of 2011 the School reaches surpasses 100 teachers and 200 private-lesson students for the first time.

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

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

In 2013, JoMS graduate, Preston Sangster, who had earned a bachelor’s degree from UT 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 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.

In 2015 Taber Gable returns to Knoxville to present a benefit concert as a way of thanking the School for the opportunities he was given. Also, Julie Carter celebrates her 10th anniversary on the job as director of music education.

In 2015 JoMS outreach teachers give classes to over 1,000 children in a year for the first time. These teachers spread out in the area giving classes at after-school facilities like Boys & Girls Clubs, Urban Family Outreach, and many others. It’s a major milestone for the community!

In 2016 Knoxville attorney, Rick Carl, is elected president of the board of directors.

In 2018 singer and radio station owner, Cindi Alpert, is elected president of the board of directors.

In 2019 Marilyn Dick passes away at age 95. The widow of the School’s founder, James Dick, she was an enthusiastic and generous supporter. Marilyn bestowed charm, dignity, joy, and goodwill everywhere she went. Her love and serenity will be greatly missed.

In 2020 Mr. Jack Fellers, retired university professor and JoMS volunteer piano teacher, begins service as board president.

The Coronavirus pandemic causes the school to switch to an all online live video education model in March 2020. No lessons or classes have taken place in the building since then.

In December 2020 we add an office tenant to the School building, PMI Knoxville.