T he mention of Jeanie Joesbury immediately invokes beauty and grace -- vocal beauty and grace for sure, but inner beauty and grace as well. For 35 years, her magical voice has filled area churches, theaters, gymnasiums, sports fields and even opera houses in our area.
A classically trained singer, Jeanie was surrounded by music early on. Her mom was a church organist and piano teacher in Friendswood, Texas, while Jeanie was growing up. Her mother, known to many in Thomson as "Miss Sue", had perfect pitch and a lovely singing voice as well, Jeanie remembers.
"I always loved it when my mom, Aunt Gloria and a cousin would get together and sing hymns and songs in parts. They loved to sing and make music and we all loved to hear it," Jeanie said.
Jeanie studied piano beginning in second grade but did not make her solo singing debut until senior high school. Her father worked for NASA and the family moved from Texas to Washington, D.C. when Jeanie was starting her junior year of high school. While in the nation's capitol, she sang in a madrigal group at school and knew then that singing would be an important part of her life.
"I knew early in my senior year that I wanted to take singing seriously," she said. "I really got serious about it and knew it was what I wanted to do so when we moved back to Texas after graduation, I started studying voice performance at the University of Texas with Orville White."
While at U. T., Jeanie also sang with a chamber music group, comprised mainly of graduate students.
"Because I could sight read music well, they let me in early. I was able to do difficult musical literature as an undergraduate, so I got in," she said, adding that opera was not even really on her mind at that time. "While we all learned classical singing technique and music, opera was reserved mainly for the graduate students."
Just a few classes shy of graduating from the University of Texas, Jeanie met and married Thomson native David Joesbury.
"My mother's sister, Gloria Hutchinson, introduced me to David one day at the old Thomson Company Factory Outlet store that's now home to the First Baptist Youth Building," Jeanie said laughing.
They met in high school and dated when Jeanie would come to visit in the summers., and David proposed when she was a senior in college. At first David was going to move to Texas so Jeanie could finish college there, but he couldn't find a job as good as the one he had at home, so Jeanie decided to finish up her degree at Augusta College.
Moving to Thomson was fairly easy for the Texas girl since she had family in Thomson, and of course, her impressive musical talent is easy entry anywhere. But, it's Jeanie's easygoing nature and true inner beauty that captivate everyone around her. She sang, worshiped and worked at Thomson's First United Methodist Church and immediately beguiled then organist Edward Bradberry, the founder and general director of the Augusta Opera, with her beautiful singing and excellent musicianship. "Edward was here when I came to Thomson, playing the organ and launched me in to the opera world," she said.
Bradberry cast her in minor roles and in the opera chorus. Jeanie worked in many Augusta Opera productions, including Carmen, Lucia di Lammermoor, Madama Butterfly, Oklahoma, The Cole Porter Review, Hansel and Gretel and many more. Then, family life put a stop to her operatic endeavors, for a while.
With the birth of her son Jack, who is now 33 years old, and daughter Leslie, 31, Jeanie curtailed the opera productions and concentrated on family life, church, and completing school. She graduated from Augusta College with a music performance and education degree and studied organ. Jeanie acted as interim choir director at Thomson First United Methodist Church and taught private piano lessons from home. In 1987, she coached the literary team for Briarwood Academy and a few years later, she became a full time staff member at the private school, teaching music for all grade levels.
Just as she was getting her feet wet at Briarwood, Jeanie and David welcomed another child into the family, Dave. Even with the new baby, Jeanie maintained a busy schedule at Briarwood, teaching music, coaching literary and directing school musical productions. Briarwood's school musicals were a treat for people in this area for many years, thanks to Jeanie's talent and her love of that genre.
"I just love musicals -- being in them, directing them. They are so American and tell such great stories," she said.
Not only did Jeanie produce musicals at Briarwood, but in the summers, she would star in them at Washington, Georgia's Little Theater.
Jeanie's favorite part of the musicals, or any type of musical production, is when she sees someone enjoy learning about music.
"Working on Briarwoods musicals really helped me understand how wonderful it is to see a child succeed in a role, to be able to hand down the gift and love of music," Jeanie said.
She continues spreading her love of music, now to her three grown children, grandson Harrison, and soon to another grandchild due in the coming months. And, of course, to her church family as Jeanie begins a new role next week at Thomson First United Methodist Church, that of Music Director. She will continue to bring beautiful music to the congregation and guests now through her choral conducting and children's productions.
"Making music is a wonderful, magical experience I have been truly blessed to have. For someone else to have that experience, well, I just love it," Jeanie said.