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Bill Kirby Jr.: When it comes to music, Joy Cogswell is the love of every child

Cogswell recently retired as director of the Snyder Music Academy at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church.


Joy Cogswell is an icon when it comes to music in this community.

Her presence is a gift to any piano.

And teaching young people the notes and keys of a piano is one of the joys of her life. She has been doing that for the past 20 years as director of Snyder Music Academy at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church.

“I had many opportunities during those years to develop so many opportunities for children and adults alike,” says Cogswell, 75, who retired as director on April 12. “One of my favorite memories was a summer camp in which we produced ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ down at the amphitheater on the river. It was a children’s opera written by one of our teachers, Charis Duke.”

Jennifer McFadyen Hammond was one of her students many years back when she took private lessons at Cogswell’s home. Hammond has never forgotten those lessons or her piano teacher.

“Joy is so dear to me,” Hammond says. “She taught me piano lessons in her living room when I was 5 years old and did the same for my older daughter when she turned 5. She’s taught hundreds, probably thousands, of kids to love music over her lifetime as a teacher and Kindermusik instructor. Her legacy is truly amazing.”

Cogswell is humble.

She’s patient with students.

She’s a teacher, and music is her passion.

“My love of music came naturally to me,” Cogswell says. “My dad’s family was heavily involved in music. Three of my aunts were church organists, and my dad and two other siblings played other instruments. My mother was a piano major in college. I started taking piano lessons at age 5 and don’t ever remember considering any other career. I had a talented and nurturing piano teacher and a choral director and band director who were great influences on me. I still stay in touch with the choral and band director. They were married, and I talk with them often.”

A child of music

Joycelyn Walden Cogswell grew up the only child of Ben and Katheryne Walden in

Columbia, Mississippi, a small town on the east bank of the Pearl River and about 100 miles from New Orleans.

“I guess one bragging point for our little town is it was the home of Walter Peyton,” she says about the late National Football League running back who helped the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl XX title in 1985. “His mom was in our home often, and I loved the wonderful food that she created. As an only child, my mother had a very difficult time allowing me to go far away to Florida State University. They continue to have one of the best schools of music in the country. I attended undergraduate and graduate school there. I am a Seminole through and through.”

It was there she would meet Bob Cogswell, a law student, on a blind date.

“I tell him he came to his senses and chose Florida State for law school since he was in undergraduate school at the University of Florida,” she says. “So a Gator and Seminole were married on Sept. 19, 1970. We were sent directly to Pope Air Force Base for Bob to complete a four-year ROTC commitment. During that time we joined Snyder Memorial Baptist Church and felt that God was calling us to stay here.”

Bob Cogswell later would become the city attorney.

Joy Cogswell would become a presence at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, first playing for the youth choir in 1971 and selected as church pianist in 1974.

“Through those years I played for all choirs and at one point was Children’s Choir coordinator,” she says. “Bob Haynes started the singing Christmas tree, and I, of course, was there for all of them before I retired as pianist after 45 years three years ago. I was blessed to play for every performance of the singing Christmas tree for 40 years. Not sure how many that was, but a lot with seven performances each year.”

She played for weddings.

She played for funerals.

Whenever there was a call for the church pianist, Joy Cogswell was there and never missed a note.

Snyder Music Academy

In 2002, Larry Dickens and the music committee felt led to start a music academy, she says, and Cogswell was the obvious choice to become director of Snyder Music Academy.

“Our highest enrollment exceeded 600 students per semester for several years.”

She became a certified Kindermusik educator in 1990 and continued to teach children from ages birth to 5 years for the ensuing 30 years. She was honored as a Maestro Kindermusik Educator for many of those years, with the program recognized with international acclaim.

While Cogswell continues teaching children and music at The Fayetteville Academy, a private school, as well as private lessons for students on the grand piano in her home, she’ll miss leading the Snyder Music Academy.

“Mainly, the kids and the faculty, some who have been with us 20 years,” she says. “They are like family, and Amy Parker, my assistant, held us together like the glue.”

Donna Davenport will become director of Snyder Music Academy.

“For years, I always felt she was the one I would like to take my place,” Cogswell says. “She taught for me when I was at Methodist (University). She is a hard worker.”

And Davenport, the church organist, knows she has large shoes to fill.

“Joy has sown seeds of great pleasure and happiness in many hearts, true to the meaning of her own name, as she has shared the joy of music,” Davenport says. “Joy Cogswell’s vision for Snyder Music Academy has given the gift of music opportunity to our community for over 20 years – a gift which has changed lives.’’

They like to say over on Westmont Drive there’s a “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” in the sanctuary with the tall, white steeple. And with talented musicians including the likes of Richard Suggs, Giles Blankenship, Geron Gambill, Leslie Davis and academy instructors Kerri Hurley, Diana Andrews, Anna Hall, Mark Mabe, Amy Jones, Sejung Ra, Abby Williams, Syreeta Jackson, Anna Bunn, Alina Cherkasova, Kathy Gambill, Alyssa Hall, Bob James, Kara Smith, Akemi Williams, Connor Larsen, William Morrozoff III, Angela Touron, Anastasia Bryant, Ashlee Dudley, Heather Arnold, Laurel Wachtler, Mary Anne Greene and Anastasia Trevino … there’s the sweet sounds of music, too.

And let us never forget the voice of Barbara Ann Lawson.


And surely not Cogswell, the first inductee into the Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame in 2008. She has touched the octaves and sharps and flats from Carnegie Hall to Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, and the lives of countless children with musical dreams of their own.

She looks on her music journey and is ever grateful for teachers to include Ramah Thompson, Robert Glotzbach, Judy and Jim Brewer, her parents and those musical aunts, too. And to Snyder Memorial Baptist Church for so many opportunities.

“After leaving my pianist job at Snyder, the Fayetteville Academy approached me to teach their Pre-K through first-grade music,” Cogswell says. “This is my third year there and I truly love my little ones. They keep me moving as I sit on the floor, jump like frogs, and sometimes roll like little pigs on the floor. I also teach private students in my home, most of whom are little ones. My love of children brings me much joy, and I feel so blessed to be a part of their lives.”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

Column, Bill Kirby Jr., Joy Cogswell, Snyder Music Academy, Snyder Memorial Baptist Church