BENJAMIN LEE JOYCE
Benjamin L. Joyce was as determined to teach to high standards as he was to win first place in a music contest. Insisting that his students read music, practice consistently, walk and sit with good posture, and behave with character, dignity and pride, Mr. Joyce was devoted to his students and bands. He founded the bands for both Kealing Jr. High School and Old Anderson High School.
Although Mr. Joyce was not a certified band teacher, he taught many students who became award winning professional musicians; 21 became band directors.
Mr. Joyce was one of five children born to Dennis T. and Clara Joyce, in musically-gifted family in Plaquemine, La. When B.L. Joyce came of age, he attended the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Ala. to become a master tailor. He married Zenobia Duncan; they had two daughters and three sons.
In the early 1900’s, Mr. Joyce came to Samuel Huston College in Austin, Texas to teach tailoring in the trades department. He participated in the music department in various capacities, especially with trumpet and violin. He served in the army during World War I and played tuba in the army band.
An old army friend was principal of Anderson High School, and he hired Mr. Joyce to organize the band program at the African American secondary schools. The first year, Mr. Joyce taught without pay. He used his tailoring skills to design and make Anderson’s first uniform, with help from mothers of the students. At Old L.C. Anderson, Mr. Joyce led the Yellow Jacket Band from 1934 to 1955. Anderson was the only band invited to play a concert at Prairie View one year before the state band contest began. At the first Prairie View Interscholastic League band contest, Anderson won a first division rating. Under his leadership, the band won the state championship seven times between 1940 and 1953 at the Prairie View Interscholastic League competitions.
Band students tell about the time one week before a Prairie View UIL contest, when the first chair trumpet player came late to rehearsal. Mr. Joyce removed him from the band and one of the third-part players was moved to first chair. The next week the band received all first divisions, with rave reviews to the new first chair trumpet player. After graduation, the new trumpet soloist went on to replace Miles Davis in the Charlie Parker Band and also took Clifford Brown’s trumpet position in the Jazz Messengers. His name was Kenny Dorham; his music can be heard on more than 40 recordings with the best of jazz musicians. He attended the Julliard School of Music.
The original first trumpet player eventually made it back to the band, after graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Alvin Patterson became the second and last band director at Old Anderson with a successful teaching career. One of the young trumpet players Mr. Joyce skipped over was Gilbert Askey, who is known internationally as an arranger and song writer for Motown music. Gil has scored music for movies and has served as music director for pop groups such as the Supremes.
The Old Anderson High School Band played for the National Baptist Sunday School Convention many times, including one out-of-state trip to Indiana. Anderson High was the first African American Band to perform at the opening of the Austin City Market.
Mr. Joyce was a strict band leader and many of his students looked up to and respected him as a father figure. He was loved by the African American community. The Old Anderson Band gave the community a sense of pride marching up Congress Avenue in parades, performing at football games, summer concerts at Rosewood park in east Austin (a tradition Mr. Joyce founded), and winning state championships at contest.
Because of a new statewide regulation, Gilmer Akin’s Act, teachers were required to have certification in the field in which they taught. So Mr. Joyce was forced to resign as Anderson High band director in 1955.
Austin Mayor Tom Miller honored Mr. Joyce with a proclamation declaring B.L. Joyce Day. The Austin Chamber of Commerce commemorated his outstanding service to his bands and the community, flying 87 banners on Congress Avenue in February 2002.
Mrs. Dorothy Lampkin, president of the Old L.C. Anderson Alumni Association of North Texas, writes “Mr. Joyce was without doubt a legendary band director who deserves to be recognized in the Texas Band Masters Hall of Fame.”