Here’s what happens and how it’s done.

Activities of the Joy of Music School

Since 1998, the Joy of Music School (JoMS) has connected thousands of Knoxville’s underserved children with talented educators and inspiring performers in quality programs that enrich lives, uplift families, and strengthen the community.

The School reaches over 220 low-income, at-risk children and teens through free music instruction in its Knoxville facility, and provides free outreach music classes at afterschool sites, serving up to 1,000 more low-income youth. Enrollment has fallen by about 40% since the Covid-19 pandemic. In the period covered by this grant, the School expects to recoup 10 percent of those losses.

To comply with pandemic health regulations, in March 2020 the School moved services online using Zoom videoconferencing. This included individual lessons as well as in-house classes and ensembles. Outreach teaching, normally offered in after-school sites, has morphed into synchronous and asynchronous instruction using Zoom with occasional in-person instruction.

The School engages children from low-income communities making music education accessible. Most students are from the inner-city Knoxville locales of Mechanicsville, Lonsdale, and Beaumont—areas with the lowest household incomes in Knox County. The student population is representative of the underserved local community: 48% of students across all programs are persons of color, and 100% are from low-income households.
In-house lessons, currently online via Zoom, are taught by around 65 (down from 107 pre-pandemic) qualified, vetted, and trained volunteer teachers. Outreach and in-house classes are taught by paid, contracted teaching artists.

Programs and Planning Procedures

Organizational planning is guided by INSTITUTIONAL GOALS (see below). Goals focus on expanding the School’s reach while maintaining existing services at the highest level.

Private Instruction

This is the main thrust of the on-site programs. About 150 children are expected to enroll in weekly 30- to 60-minute lessons in band and orchestral instruments, voice, piano and guitar. This is down from 200-plus in a normal year. In 2021-2022 the School plans to engage 75 musicians volunteering one to four hours weekly to teach, mentor, and inspire. Five teaching artists will be contracted as well. Work typically takes place in the School’s facility near downtown Knoxville, but will remain on Zoom until it is safe to convene in person. The building has 16 teaching studios, a main ensemble room, a library, and an electronic music creation/production lab.

The program is overseen and planned by Julie Carter, Director of Music Education, who has significant international expertise in teaching and curriculum development. She has largely standardized the curriculum, allowing for detailed tracking and evaluation of student progress.

With volunteer teachers at the heart of its program, JoMS emphasizes planning and implementation of teacher training, incentives, mentor coaching, and expanded recruitment. That work is directed toward improving student achievement and meeting community demand for the School’s services brought about by continual public school music budget cuts. At the end of each semester, students perform in public at the School, at senior centers, or public venues. When live presentations are not safe, the School organizes recitals via Zoom, such as the holiday recitals in December 2020, or streaming on YouTube Live (view video here), as for the Spring Recital 2020.

JoMS conducts semiannual assessments of students, teachers, and parents. It uses the results to ensure objectives are met, teaching is up to standards, and to identify areas needing improvement. Institutional planning focuses on all areas of impact..

Group Lessons

The School offers group classes, choir, general music, baritone ukulele (pre-guitar for small hands) and more. Ensembles give younger children and teens musical skills as well as important lessons of teamwork, reliability, and self-discipline. Group instruction permits broader impact by serving more students and offering musical instruction instilling the ensemble ethos. Online teaching has required some modifications, but instruction continues as normally as possible. Group lessons also allow greater reach for younger children not yet ready for private instruction. Planning procedures include regular review of results while continually seeking new ways to reach as many students as possible with quality instruction, and to increase variety and depth. The School, when teaching in person, staffs group classes at a 5:1 student-teacher ratio to ensure quality instruction.


In normal times, contracted teaching artists travel weekly to public schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, and other after-school sites serving disadvantaged youth, reaching up to 1,000 children in outreach programs. The switch to online offerings began in March 2020 and has fostered a new way of approaching outreach. In 2021-22 it is anticipated most outreach classes will be conducted online. In outreach, JoMS instructors teach K-5 students in general music. For many kids this is their first exposure to music-making. Moreover, in most cases, this is the only general music class offered at the sites. JoMS now serves 12 such sites. Partner organizations commonly request that the School expand to additional sites. A featured INSTITUTIONAL GOAL is to meet all these requests. The primary challenge to meeting 100% of the demand for the outreach programs is securing adequate funding. Efforts in that area bore early fruit and allowed for expansion until the pandemic hit. But the adaptation to video offerings is gaining momentum.

Though slowed, outreach is still expanding in scope. In response to a self-evident need in isolated communities, in 2019JoMS initiated a rural outreach program with music classes in Boys and Girls Clubs in rural Loudon and Greene Counties. A featured INSTITUTIONAL GOAL is to continue expanding rural outreach by finding new sources of support and identifying suitable teaching sites. Pre-pandemic the School aimed to be offering outreach in nine East Tennessee counties by 2023. That goal was pushed back to 2024.

Click here to view our outreach page on this site.

Summer Programs

Partnering with the Knox Education Foundation, JoMS helps extend the school year for children at selected underperforming Knox County Public Schools. JoMS teaches these students after school and in summer, in normal times. The School has put summer music programs into several elementary school sites this way. In 2020 as the School worked to extend its own private lessons into summer through a focused effort, the pandemic brought an end to it. However, the School has a featured INSTITUTIONAL GOAL to continue summer expansion in-house and in outreach..

Online Teaching and Learning Partnership

As a member of the Berklee City Music Network, a national consortium of community groups like JoMS, the School offers the online Berklee PULSE Music Method. A program of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, PULSE brings Berklee curriculum to youth through the music they love. Using the system, some teachers teach and students learn music theory, ear training and instrumental and vocal techniques engaging the music of today via an expansive website, berkleepulse.net. This site features an impressive array of instructional tools for students and teachers.


In normal circumstances, all on-site school activity takes place on the ground level floor of its two-story building. There are no steps, making it accessible for individuals with mobility impairments. Restrooms are ADA-compliant. Program access to services for under-served clients, such as low-income, isolated, and elderly constituents is accomplished through contact with school districts, home-school organizations, clubs (like Boys & Girls Clubs), public libraries, and assisted living facilities, as well as via media ranging from Twitter to church bulletin boards. To address cross-cultural and linguistic accessibility, all forms for donation, application, and enrollment are available in English and Spanish. Onsite spoken Spanish translation services are available. JoMS also offers many programs via the web which overcomes some mobility barriers.

Institutional Goals

In addition to the featured institutional goals above, the School endeavors generally to broaden the lives of financially disadvantaged young people, to teach good habits that will carry over into their lives’ work, and to expose young people to new opportunities for success. JoMS seeks to provide the following for all students:

  1. Musical instruments and related accessories,
  2. Special musical opportunities through a combination of private and group lessons, ensemble participation, enrichment classes and experiences, and,
  3. Support and encouragement so students may develop their artistic potential to the highest level possible.

These goals give direction to the School’s planning. The School embraces and promotes the positive influence of mentoring and understands the benefit of a child’s connection with an adult from outside their usual circles.


It takes a village indeed! The Joy of Music School has many partners it relies upon to carry out its mission in the most effective way possible. These partnerships are two-way in nature, and bring value to the School, but also to its collaborators. Here is a bulleted list of the Joy of Music School’s top partners, showing the nature of the relationship followed by a summary statement of the partnership’s value.

  • Knoxville Area Mentoring Initiative:
    A five-way partnership with area mentoring nonprofits promoting effective practices and capacity building in mentoring and in recruiting teacher/mentors.

    • Value: Greater community reach for JoMS services. More effective mentoring from JoMS teachers. Greater public awareness of mentoring opportunities at JoMS and other KAMI organizations.
  • UT School of Music:
    Thanks to cooperative interaction, volunteers from UT faculty and students make up about 30% of JoMS teachers. Several UT students fulfill a teaching requirement in pedagogy classes with JoMS students.

    • Value: JoMS kids get supervised university-level instruction; UT students get invaluable teaching experience.
  • Knox County Public Defender’s Office, Project Grad, Boys & Girls Clubs, Urban Family Outreach, Wesley House:
    Through outreach classes JoMS teaches in their after-school facilities, which enriches their programs at no cost. Partners provide JoMS with space and access to their underserved kids.

    • Value: Replaces scant or absent music training for vulnerable families despite public school music cuts.
  • School of Rock Knoxville:
    A donor underwrites summer rock band lessons for JoMS kids. School of Rock charges only their cost, which is paid by the donor.

    • Value: JoMS kids get summer rock camps (not offered by JoMS), while SoR assists under-served musical kids.
  • Knoxville Symphony Orchestra:
    Free tickets for JoMS families. KSO musicians and staff get volunteer and service opportunities.

    • Value: Stronger bonds between Knoxville’s high-achieving musicians and the School’s young clients.
  • Loud Media, Scripps Networks, TV and Media Outlets:
    Partners promote volunteer recruitment and special events via numerous on-air spots. JoMS offers them avenues to uplift their community.

    • Value: More families and supporters awareof free music programs. More musicians see volunteer opportunities.
  • Alliance for Better Nonprofits:
    JoMS receives consulting support in capacity-building, executive coaching, etc. ABN gains clients and extends their influence.

    • Value: Greater capacity for JoMS community service. Exposure to ABN’s partners allows synergy among area nonprofits, who find interdependency and promote JoMS services to potential clients. ABN strengthens area nonprofits.
  • AC Entertainment / Big Ears Festival:
    Opportunities for JoMS students to experience non-mainstream music, often as it is being created. Big Ears international artists use JoMS rehearsal facilities. They also present special programs for JoMS students.

    • Value: Better-informed and inspired youth. Greater visibility for JoMS. AC/Big Ears extend their reach and mission to inform.
  • Berklee City Music Network, Boston:
    Membership grants access to the PULSE online music system, a resource for teachers and students. They benefit from wider spread for the BCMN mission.

    • Value: Potential volunteers are attracted to the link with a world-class college. JoMS students are enriched via contemporary music modalities. Kids can win scholarships to summer music training and the chance to compete for Berklee college scholarships.
  • Knox Education Foundation with Knox County Schools:
    JoMS provides teaching in under-performing public schools in their after-school and summer programs. Partners provide space and access to kids JoMS serves.

    • Value: More children in need get opportunities to pursue the art and discipline of music. This work counteracts public school music budget cuts.

Outreach classes are provided to afterschool and/or summer sites at no cost. The professional instructors’ costs are funded by Joy of Music School donors, the CMA Foundation, and the Tennessee Arts Commission.

The Community the School Serves

The Joy of Music School serves a community of children ages 5 to 18 from low-income households in East Tennessee.

The School serves families who appreciate the value of creative endeavors and who want their children’s lives to be enhanced by the art and discipline of music.


Most in-house students come from the inner-city Knoxville communities of Mechanicsville, Lonsdale, and Beaumont. These neighborhoods have the lowest median household incomes in Knox County.
JoMS families for in-house instruction are self-selecting and must apply for participation in the program. Admission is based on financial status.
In-house parents/guardians must submit proof of income and household size so JoMS can evaluate their eligibility on a financial basis. The same household income benchmarks as the USDA National School Lunch Program are used foradmission.
The School’s in-house students are as follows:

  • Low-income 100%
  • Female 60% – Male 40%
  • Caucasian – 56%
  • Hispanic – 23%
  • African-American – 15%
  • Asian – 0%
  • Other – 6%


Joy of Music School outreach programs offer group music lessons to children ages 5 to 13 off-site in after-school programs for low-income families, such as Boys & Girls Clubs. Outreach also goes to Knox County Elementary Schools participating in the 21st Century Learning Center program, in collaboration with the Knox Education Foundation. These are under-performing elementary schools in economically depressed neighborhoods that use these programs (and others)to extend the school day and the school year for the benefit of the students and the community.

Outreach also goes to rural sites providing programs to under-served youth in Loudon, Greene, and Blount Counties.Many of these sites have had us switch to online classes via Zoom in both synchronous and asynchronous teaching models.


The School is in the fourth year of a project to expand outreach further into East Tennessee. Currently in four counties, the original goal was to be in nine East Tennessee counties by 2023. Because of the pandemic, we have reset that goal date to the year 2024.
The current outreach teaching program–limited by pandemic-related obstacles to approximately 650 students–breaks down as follows:

  • Female 54% – Male 46%
  • African-American – 55%
  • Caucasian – 29%
  • Hispanic – 11%
  • Other – 4%
  • Native American – <1%


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