Joyce at 3
Most assuredly, one of the most critical cornerstones of my musical development was my beloved piano teacher Ms. Lolita Jordan with whom I studied from second grade til high school graduation. Ms. Jordan was a meticulously dressed and perfectly coiffed retired accompanist for opera singers. Living in north Stockton, which was nearly 100% white, she embraced and taught children of diverse ethnicity. After several of years of study with her, she suddenly moved to another rental just one block away from where I'd always come to study. I found out later in life that she had moved because the new landlord had threatened her with eviction is she did not immediately cease teaching Black and Hispanic students. Rather than to dismiss these children, she moved that students like me could continue. I credit this fine woman for valuing me and instilling in me the passion for music that abides with me yet today.
While the formatting of this bio might veer from the standard, it is consistent with my life, which has been anything but conventional. This is MY story for those whose interests might be piqued enough to read. As I look back over my life, I see the perfect ordering of events (some good, some not good) that all melded to render me sifted, sanded, and chiseled into the essence of what my art form is today.
A native of Stockton, California, I was singled out at an early age as a gifted musician by an anonymous benefactor who underwrote my private violin study from third through eighth grades. Once I entered Edison High School, and under the continued auspices of my benefactor, I began violin study at the University of the Pacific's Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of Professor Ralph Matesky. Throughout high school, I served as the concertmistress for the Edison High School Orchestra, as well as the San Joaquin County Honor Orchestra.
ASB President '66
Upon graduation from Edison High School l (where I had been elected the first female ASB president in seventeen years), I prepared to enter Stanford University as a full-scholarship student. Before my departure to Stanford, a celebratory banquet in my honor was held, and I, at long-last, was introduced to my life-long musical benefactor, Mr. Skipper Yee, a local Stockton businessman and owner of the Sky Corporation.
Imagine having been the pride of family and community in gaining admittance to Stanford, only to arrive there in September 1966 only to depart at the end of my first quarter of study, pregnant with a child that I would deliver Father's Day June 18, 1967. What a startling and stunning diversion my seemingly rosey path took. I left Stanford for a year, but returned in January1968 with my son in tow. Later that year, I married Johnnie Scott, my son's father.
My second quarter of collegiate study at Stanford resumed with my living off-campus, being a full-time mother, full-time student, wife, and part-time technical typist in Stanford's Mathematics Department. I was able to juggle my schedule so I could take classes til noon and then work Monday-Friday from 1p-5p.
Throughout my time at Stanford , I was a victim of both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of my alcohol abusing husband. Life's cruel buffets often nearly brought me to my knees but with grim determination I DID successfully culminate my studies at Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and Master of Arts degree in Music Education (1972). Vivid memory of mine in my last quarter of graduate study was taking a final exam, eye patch covering a recently blackened eye. I had been advised, by the ophthamologist who treated me, to rest the eyes, but I remember telling him I WAS taking my finals, and I DID.
My first job was that of vocal music specialist for the Menlo Park City School District in California, and I taught there until I married my second husband and later became pregnant with my second child. Soon after I departed that position on maternity leave, I received notification from the California Teacher Credentialing Office that I had, unknowingly, completed an academic minor in English. Since California's passage of Proposition 13 in the 60's had decimated fine arts programs in public schools, the newly revealed English minor credential allowed for a seemless segue into my teaching English in San Jose's East Side Union High School District when I returned to work in 1976. I taught English until 1999 when the declining health of my mother (who had lived with me since 1986) rendered her bedridden. I returned briefly in 2004 for a semester before retiring permanently from public education.
Always finding great fulfillment in teaching, I opened the Randolph School of Music full-time instead of the part-time operation I'd run since 1991. By doing so, I could be physically present with my mother whom I'd entrusted with a caregiver who was on the premises from 8a to 8p M-F. At this point I have to chuckle. My mother had been given six-twelve months to live; my dear mother, Mable Hurdle, was truly recalled to life and lived with me for twenty-two until her peaceful passing in 2007.
My path to becoming a professional jazz, blues, and gospel vocalist was both unintentional, unforeseen, and most serendipitous. Having written songs and lyrics since junior high school, I composed a love song entitled "Thank God for the Friend I've Found" and sang it to my third husband in our 1987 wedding ceremony. His words lateto me were, "I knew immediately that you were musically gifted."
In the first months of our marriage, he invited me to attend church with him at Antioch Baptist Church in San Jose, and I did. Soon after joining, he expressed a desire for the both of us to audition for the church choir. We did and have sung together for more than 30 years there.
Joyce and son Tadd
Having been raised in a white church throughout my childhood, I was elated at the opportunity to be introduced to and steeped in the richness of the black gospel music experience, and I soon realized that it afforded me a different vocal expression which heretofore, I'd not known.
The experience of singing in a black choir enriched me to the core of by being and would serve to mold, shape, and color the tenor of what my vocal style would evolve to be. A big cultural void which I'd longed to know, I now found myself in a state of total immersion. An area of expression that I'd not tapped nor toned. I credit Stacey Green (the choir director) with teaching and profoundly influencing me and liberated voice to a part of me that had been silent and hidden. In what I'd decided was to be my last live concert, I invited Stacey to accompany me for a couple of gospel selections which wers included in one of my CD's.
Time constraints did not allow me to compose; however, one day my sister approached me about writing an inspirational song that bespoke of boundless potential. This song was to be the theme song for entrepreneurial venture of hers, but she needed it completed within forty-eight hours. With pen poised and manuscript in hand, I made my way to the piano, and "My New Day" (which was to prove to be the embryonic seed for my first CD) was born. Another moment of fortuity befell me when I was paired with Bay Area keyboard and trumpet player, John Turk who produced and arranged what became the first track of my debut CD.
At the urging of John and my husband Barney, I continued to create more songs until I had compiled enough to fill an album. The debut CD "I Send Him Roses" was a collection of original songs by me, and a cover, "Teach Me Tonight"(1995). The San Jose Mercury News published a feature article about the high school English teacher and her debut CD.
My rendition of "Teach Me Tonight" caught the ear of veteran Bay Area KPFA-FM jazz programmer Doug Edwards who invited me to my first of many appearances on his weekly Saturday night jazz show "Ear Thyme". Following that initial appearance, Doug invited me to be a featured vocalist on the radio station's, long-running simulcast
two-hour concert series BAJABA Showcase (Bay Area Jazz and Blues Artists). Doug matched me with guitarist Calvin Keys who accompanied me. The live launch of the duo was magical, mesmerizing, and an instant marriage of the musical minds.
On a Sunday afternoon shortly after that, my daughter saw in the Sunday paper that the Calvin Keys Trio was appearing at the San Jose Jazz Society's Sunday Afternoon jazz series. Though I would love to have attended, I could not get a caregiver on short notice (as I was caregiver on weekends). My husband told it would be good to get out and that he would sit with my mother. So off my daughter and I went. Hunkering down in an inconspicuous spot at the venue, I was beckoned to the stage by Calvin who had spied me in the crowd. I sang "Fine and Mellow" and "My Funny Valentine".
Early next morning I awoke to find an an e-mail message from Keys which stated that the general director of the San Jose Jazz Society, Henry Schiro, had been in attendance and had extended an invitation for me to appear as a featured vocalist with The Calvin Keys Trio at that year's Comcast San Jose Jazz Festival 2001, the largest free jazz festival in the country. With mouth agape in astonishment and eyes just a-blinkin' in utter wonderment and incredulity, I exclaimed to myself, "WHAT just happened?" There I was--a jazz and blues singer to my ecstatic shock and awe. Forces of Good had catapulted me to a stage and venue I'd never dreamt to visit nor yearned for. Truly, I felt as if I'd stepped into a miracle custom made for me. In that moment, I knew I had been gifted a blessing that could have only come from Someone who'd been charting my footsteps all along the way. Don't mean for this bio to be a homily, but I'm just recalling MY story and how I perceive its course.
Upon reflection, I would have to liken Mr. Doug Edwards to a fairy godfather who continued to have profound influence in my artistic development. Next he invited me to be featured in another KPFA live simulcast—this time pairing me with bassist Jeff Chambers in San Francisco (2003). Looking back, I don't know what kept me from bolting from the stage when I stepped out on it before a live audience — just me and a bass-naked music, in the most simple format of presentation—no room for error. Somehow, I felt that Doug was placed along my path as my steps were ordered. Never occurred to me to fret nor fear because I trusted that he would not proffer me a stage or forum where I could do anything but succeed. Adrenalin pumping full throttle throughout my body, I took the plunge.
After the enthusiastic response from that live audience at that showcase, Mr. Edwards suggested that I record a CD of duets with pianist Bill Bell (whom I'd not yet met) and Jeff Chambers. In 2004 "Just a Little Blue" CD was recorded at Fantasy Records in Berkeley and released. The title of CD was one of my favorite songs that I've written, "Just a Little Blue". Though several of the tracks received regular airplay throughout the country, monitoring charts reflected that "Just a Little Blue" was the most oft aired. What a flooding of joy and sweet fulfillment to my soul to hear "Just a Little Blue" spinning in New York. Hah! Me spinning in the Big Apple and across the nation. Such nationwide play represented a modicum of validation of my work as a vocalist, lyricist, and musical composer. Again the Mercury News was generous with its ink in its coverage.
I decided to produce all further CD's as live concerts so that I could capture that phase of life. The year 2005 marked the release of "Live at the Sainte Claire", and my 2007
concert at the same venue resulted in what was to be my final concert. That concert was documented and the CD entitled "Just Enough for Me."
My intention had never been to have a long vocal performance career because it was nothing after which I'd sought. 'Twas a protracted, ethereal treat, savored in the moment, and cherished by me forever. I viewed my season of public performance as a sort of unoffical period of graduate study in music — the degree being sought — not a parchment diploma, but rather the garnering of approval and validation by my vocal coach and pianist (Bill Bell) and music director, Jeff Chambers.
When I eventually earned what was tantamount to a "wink and a nod' of approval from Bill and Jeff at my concert at the Sainte Claire (2006), I was done. That was why I named the last CD "Just Enough for Me," and with an attitude of gratitude for the time spent and gentle nurturing given, I felt most fortunate to have been gifted a season with the "gentle" men who nurtured, guided, and shaped me and my art growth. On stage we romped, frolicked, laughed uproariously and the audience was one with us. The atmosphere of the ensemble on stage was nothing short of electrifying, and from my stance, I often felt my next step was levitation — PURE JOY, undeniable. In building sets, I always sought to pull together a program that would allow me to paint with my voice as many hues of my emotional palette that I could render. Utter joy is captured in "Fly Me to the Moon".
That season was done for me, heart very much content. My path, however, took an expected diversion when I visited an adult music student (whom I'd taught for 10 years). Benjamin was fighting a losing battle to cancer. As I prepared to leave from our joyful visit, he took my hand, looked plaintively in my eyes and said, "Joyce, you MUST do one more concert...for me." Told him I'd look into it. I set things in motion, came out of retirement, and the concert in Benjamin's honor was slated for October 11, 2011. Sadly, the morning of the concert, I received a call from his family telling me Benjamin Estrella had died that very morning. The concert in his honor went on, and it ended with a high-spirited and rousing rendition of "Stormy Monday"--Ben's friends dancing in the aisles with hands high in the air in celebration of his life and memory. That 2011 performance became "Simply Me." Again the Mercury News was most gracious in its coverage.
One more time, I had doffed my hat in farewell to concert performance when I got a call the next week from a woman who had read the Mercury News article that came out October 11, raced down to attend, only to find my event was SOLD OUT. Totally unbeknownst to me, my husband who was passing the lobby, gently took her by the arm, and ushered her to the one vacant seat that was in the front row next to him. Having seen the concert, she wanted to book me for a gospel concert at the historic St. Thomas Aquinas church in Palo Alto, CA for a benefit event.
There'd always been a longing to do a gospel CD, and my heart leapt in great anticipation at the notion of crowning my concert performance career with doing one with my vocal coach, mentor, and pianist. This opportunity to sing songs of faith that been lifetime favorites was truly the cherry atop the proverbial ice cream sundae. Once that was done, I truly felt my LIVE concert period completed in a satisfying way for me. The rendering of that concert was "Then Sings My Soul" (2012) which chronicled the close of my concert performing phase of life.
Someone once posed the question, "Do you feel that the actualization of your life has been compromised by having a child at eighteen, choosing to be caregiver for 22 years to both of my parents in 1986 (my father died in 1988). Au contraire, I would not change one step of my journey! My path has been wondrously wrought, and I am content. Whatever circuitous twists and turns my life has taken, I have been blessed to commune with the hearts of man through song through the genres of blues, jazz, gospel, inspirational, and patriotic. My journey has been filled with fullest measure of abundant living. Looking back at the tender age of 71, my life is replete and greaterr actualized than I could have ever imagined or desired.
With the exception of the first two CD's, all were recorded live because I wanted to catch me and music "fully in the moment." Frought with laughter, minor foibles, but most of all joy. Everyone on that stage laughing and having a good time. Always felt it was such a privilege to be with the music giants on stage, and they were truly giants in MY eyes. Always felt like the "wee pup' who was allowed to romp with the big dogs on stage. On stage with those grand men, I felt gently nurtured, protected, and cradled. Don't know how much happier I could have been. Enough to keep my contentment and fulfillment coffers full for the rest of my days.
Vocally, I grew to a point of ease and comfort in the genres of jazz, blues, gospel, and felt quite honored to be sought out to sing the national anthem for the San Jose Sharks Professional Hockey team fifteen times (2006-2014), Amgen Tour of CA (2009), Bank of the West Tennis Classic, Stanford, CA (2007), Amgen Tour of CA (2009), City of San Jose's Presidential Inauguration for Obama (2009), SAP Tennis Tournament (2009 and 2013)
In closing, the song which launched my professional career as a vocalist, yet remains my credo for daily living. I continue to believe in every new day that dawns for me.
My New Day (1995)
(Words and lyrics by Joyce Randolph)
I believe in my new day that's dawning
And the promises that lie there for me.
Deep within there's a knowing that some day
I'll be all I've dreamed I can be.
My hopes are perched on the crest of the rainbow
My heart is hitched to the brightest, the brightest of stars.
I will strive for the best and accept nothing that's less
Than the fullness of what my dreams are.
I believe in my new day that's dawning
And I have hope for the future in me
There's no stopping me now, I know why, I know how.
I must be all that I've dreamed I can be.
I stake my claim on this new day before me.
There's no mountain no hill I can't climb
I can feel in heart oh so clearly
That the sky and its limits are mine.
Oh, I believe in my new day that's dawning
And I have hope for the future in me
There's no stopping me now
I know why, I know how
I can be all I've dreamed I can be.
I can be all I want to be.
I can be ALL I want to be.