Celebrate, motivate, inspire – Second-place Black History Month essay

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Editor’s note: This is Smithfield High School junior Peter Thompson’s second-place winning entry in The Smithfield Times’ and The Schoolhouse Museum’s joint Black History Month essay contest. SHS junior Olivia Johnston’s essay, which won first place, can be found here.

By Peter Thompson

11th grade

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Smithfield High School

In my life there has been no bigger source of inspiration and motivation than retired SHS Director of Bands, Mr. Joel Joyner. Serving over 30 years in the United States Army, he has earned the Legion of Merit Medal, Bronze Star Medal, and the Army Good Conduct Medal.

He is an amazing musician playing trumpet with The Temptations, Dizzy Gillespie, and even touring with the Steve Wonder Band. I first met Mr. Joyner through the Smithfield High School Band Program. When I was introduced to him, it was scary how inviting and upbeat he was. From beginning to end his classes were full of passion for music, taking the time to work with every student. He took his knowledge from playing with professional musicians to teach us the most valuable parts of music. I was lucky enough to be placed in his advanced band class, where I could experience Mr. Joyner work with us in his favorite genre of music, Jazz.

Just seeing how much he has achieved in his life made him so interesting to me. He has so many achievements and when you meet someone like that you can’t help, but want to be like them, just hearing about his past was inspirational. The way he interacts with people and how he applies his military and religious morals to his life made me decide that I was going to join the United States Navy. Learning jazz from Mr. Joyner, and music in general, taught me to be more fluid with my life, that change can be OK, and that music is beautiful and it means something special to everyone.