“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
For Joyce Hawkins, music is more than a series of notes on a scale – it is a method of worship, a nourishing refuge, a way of life.
Whether serving as the accompanist at church, teaching the piano or merely listening to her favorite hymn, Hawkins basks in the glow of song. For those who have forgotten one of the staples of an adequate food storage supply, Hawkins is quick to remind them that a hymn book – along with nutritional basics, water and the scriptures – has been recommended for every home.
A member of the Belle Terre Ward in the Spokane East Stake, Joyce Hawkins has been teaching piano for the past 35 years. Contributed Photo.
“Hymns contain stories that are there to teach us – just like the stories from the prophets and the people in the scriptures,” said Hawkins, a member of the Belle Terre Ward in the Spokane East Stake.
Hawkins began learning piano in the first grade. Both of her grandmothers fostered a love of music as did her mother, who played the piano on a semi-professional level. After her family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when Hawkins was a youth, she recalls music being integral to the development of her testimony.
“The messages of our Father and Heaven are contained in hymns,” she said. “I learned to read hymns and look at the scriptural references. I wanted to find out, ‘What does this mean to me?'”
Hawkins has been teaching piano for the past 35 years, taking a brief hiatus during the time when she owned and operated the Huckelberry’s Scrapbooking Store in Spokane Valley from 1998 to 2008. Through the years, Hawkins said the most rewarding part of teaching has been “seeing people learn and advance.”
“You’re providing them with opportunities to grow and gain confidence,” Hawkins said. “The skills they learn carry over into many aspects of their lives.”
One of Hawkins’ early instructors was Karlyn Brett, a member of the Shadle Park Ward in the Spokane North Stake who has been a piano teacher for over 50 years. Brett said Hawkins has thrived as a piano player and educator because of her “positive energy and willingness to learn.”
“I knew that no matter what Joyce did, she was going to be successful,” Brett said. “Whenever I see her, she’s smiling. She has great enthusiasm and her students appreciate that.”
Hawkins and her husband John are the parents of six children. In her late 30’s, Hawkins returned to school to earn her bachelor’s degree in music from Eastern Washington University. At 42, she completed her master’s in music from EWU.
In addition to teaching piano, Hawkins works as a sales representative for the Steinway Piano Gallery in Spokane Valley. Contributed Photo.
The objective of continuing her education – Hawkins had originally started at BYU until she was married – is part an ongoing emphasis on goal-setting in the Hawkins family. At the beginning of each year, John, Joyce and their children write down their aspirations for the next 12 months, telling each other about their individual goals.
“Any goal you set involves going through a learning process,” Hawkins said. “When we let others know about our goals, it keeps us accountable.”
As 2011 unfolds, Hawkins knows there are plenty out there who are hoping to add music to their priority list. One of Hawkins’ first-year students is 60 years old. As with anything worthwhile, Hawkins said playing the piano or other instrument requires a considerable degree of time and commitment.
“They say if you want to get better, you only have to practice on the days that you eat,” Hawkins says with a smile. “Some students expect instant results and that’s not going to happen. They wonder why they’re not playing a Brahm’s concerto in two weeks. It takes patience.”
As a teacher, Hawkins makes sure to encourage students throughout the process, saying there are no negative lessons “when you honor every success.”
Hawkins points out that learning music contributes to the nurturing of other traits, including focus, concentration and memory. Research has shown that the development of music skills improves neural responses in the brain and transfers to tasks like reading.
“We talk about how making music makes you smarter,” she said.
Between teaching piano and working full-time as a sales representative at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Spokane Valley, Hawkins still takes lessons herself.
“There’s so much music out there,” Hawkins said. “There’s so much to learn.”