One of life’s greatest joys is music. Some musicians say music is the great equalizer ... it is a means to communicate the realm of human emotions world-wide. Joe Boley has been blessed with the gift of musical ability and he has shared his talent through a myriad of avenues in the Great Bend community for over five decades. His connection with music started in his youth.
Joe was born in 1931 in Sedgwick, lived in Burton a few years, and grew up in Wichita. His father was employed by Boeing and his mother was a homemaker and a pianist for church. Joe went to grade school in a government housing project outside of Wichita, in Plainview.
“It is kind of interesting to think back to those days and some of the things that went on in those projects…the project was a melting pot,” said Joe, adding “there were families from the hills of Arkansas, blacks from Mississippi, and Indian culture. We went to school with each other without even thinking about it. It was a neat experience in that way, learning from all different cultures. We had summer band and summer recreations.”
In sixth grade Joe learned to play the trombone. In high school he sang in the choir and in a boys’ quartet that performed for churches.
Joe started playing in dance bands around Wichita at an early age. “My first gig was with the Rollie Canary orchestra. We played for a nurses’ graduation at one of the hospitals. I got eleven bucks or something like that. I filled in with different groups when they needed somebody,” said Joe.
When it came time for college, it was the trombone which he played for the band director to get a scholarship to University of Wichita, where he graduated in 1955.
“In college I learned to play most of the other brass instruments because I knew about them. In college you had to take reeds too. The little flute players from Halstead had to learn how to play the trumpet also. Piano players had to learn to play clarinet. But you always had your main instrument.”
“It was a neat time to grow up…the era right before rock and roll. We were playing big band music from the 30’s and 40’s. We would rewrite the dance band music from recordings for the jazz band and write new works too,” said Joe. “When we had a dance band, playing swing era type music in college, we had to practice in the barracks behind the music building because the dean didn’t want any of that ‘trashy’ music played in his building,” said Joe with a chuckle.
After graduation, Joe started teaching in Dorrance in 1955. “That was the type of community where you didn’t dance. We had a little combo. We had to call it a show band or something like that. There wasn’t much of that big band music written for school aged kids until the late fifties and early sixties,” added Joe.
“Dances went downhill. It was bound to happen because things have to change. We still don’t drive the cars we drove years ago. The change is natural; there is good and bad to all of it,” Joe commented.
When asked if he thinks music is reflective of society, he agrees.
“My parents thought it was terrible when kids were dancing touching each other,” Joe said. “ In fact going back earlier, people about got hung for doing the waltz when people were taking hold of each other and showing their ankles.
“My parents probably did not like the shouting of Elvis Presley and loud rock’n roll. Another set of parents don’t like the rap music because there is no tune to it. So things go down the line. We’d hear that with some of the band and orchestra music we played,” said Joe.
Joe started teaching music in Great Bend in 1958 when he became band director at Great Bend High School. From 1970 to 1977 he was the USD 428 District Music Supervisor until transferring to Roosevelt in 1977 to rebuild a declining band program. There he directed seventh through ninth grade bands until the USD 428 Board of Education closed Roosevelt in 1992. Joe then was band director for Great Bend Middle School, until retiring in 1994, after 36 years of sharing his musical gifts. During that time he served on several boards and was the recipient of many awards.
Besides teaching in Great Bend, Joe has been involved in many other avenues of music, including co-director of Argonne Rebels from 1959 to 1971; past director of USD 428 summer band program; and director of the Great Bend Municipal Band for 13 years.
Joe also organized and directs the Great Bend Old Tyme Towne Band; continues to play his trombone in the Great Bend Municipal Band, the Jay Bennette Big Band, BCC Community Band, the Prairie Winds Big Band, and the River Bend 5 Dixieland Band, and other ensembles in Kansas. He is currently serving an extended term as President of the Golden Belt Community Concert Association, continues to serve as adjudicator for KSHAA, and still continues to attend state and national music workshops and conventions.
Joe and his wife Darlene, whom he met in college at Wichita where she was also majoring in music, married in 1955 and have three daughters, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Darlene taught their three children to play the piano. A culmination of going to workshops, in-home teaching and private lessons from studio teachers led to all three earning awards, and they are utilizing benefits from their musical training. Maggie is a vocal teacher at Osawatomie. Mary uses the discipline she learned in music to teach TaeKwondo and private exercise training in Frisco, Texas. JoAnn is a church pianist at St. Marks Church in Independence, Missouri.
Joe and Darlene are both active in church music at Prince of Peace Parrish, where Darlene is the organist and Joe is the Traditional Choir director.
When asked what three types of music are Joe’s favorites, he smiles, hesitates briefly and then says “Dixie Land, concert band, orchestra and choir.”
Joe has seen a lot of changes in music in his lifetime. Some of the changes stand-out.
“The biggest thing that I remember is when they started making a change in writing music by hand and started using a music typewriter. It had your flats and your sharps and your half note and your quarter note, and that evolved into all sorts of electronic writing programs. Advancement in technology is good,” he said.
Joe still has boxes published sheet music, but is also putting music on the computer. A lot of musicians, he says, now use the computer for writing and bring electronic tablets instead of sheet music to rehearsals and performances.
“A generation has disappeared ... going outside to play, using your imagination. It is kind of the same way with music,” he added when asked about musicians using computer generated music in their compositions.
When asked why Joe is still involved with music, he said, “It has been the one thing I can do that I enjoy doing yet. Physically and mentally, I can still do it. I still enjoy being involved,” said Joe.
In addition to music, Joe is involved with several civic organizations. He also enjoys researching topics and giving talks to organizations. Some of his topics include: growing up in the projects; the Titanic; history of the oil boom in the Great Bend area; Town Bands, and history of the Great Bend city square.
Fortunately for Great Bend residents, Joe’s heart is still led by a musical muse. He says he is thankful for the many friends and colleagues that he has known during his career. Music is still a way to connect with those friends and colleagues.
And so for Joe, the beat goes on!