Joyce Garrett (Courtesy photo)
Joyce Garrett (Courtesy photo)

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Whether she is playing the organ at Alfred Street or directing choirs at Eastern High School or the United States Naval Academy, Joyce Garrett has been a musical virtuoso who has trained voices in venues across the area for more than 50 years.

On Friday, Garrett was inducted into the Eastern High School Hall of Fame as part of the school’s Centennial Celebration. “It is quite an honor,” said Garrett, who is one out of 12 honorees being inducted.

“I’m doing what I always wanted to do,” said Garrett, who has trained voices to perform at the White House under Ronald Reagan and RFK Stadium for the Washington Commanders.

“Playing church music is something that gives me feelings that you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,”  said Garrett, who spends much of her time working with the Rev. Howard John Wesley and the members of Alfred Street Baptist Church.

Garrett sat down at the organ of the Alfred Street at 9 a.m. and started to play “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”

Garrett’s hymn selection wasn’t by accident. Easter was two weeks away and the veteran musician wanted to set the tone for the Holy season as hundreds filled the sanctuary and overflow rooms in Alexandria, Virginia.

“‘O Sacred Head,’ is associated with the Lenten season, and I selected it as a prelude to set the atmosphere for worship,” said Garrett, who, on this Easter Sunday, will direct a mass choir at the St. Elizabeth’s East Entertainment and Sports Arena.

Ministering Through Music 

Before Covid, Alfred Street held four services a week. But today, the church has one service, but on Mother’s Day, they will go to two services. 

“Alfred Street has a comprehensive  music and worship arts program,” said Garrett, adding that the church has two orchestras, several choirs, and a Praise Team.“My motto is Excellence Without excuses.”

Mary Ware, 90, Director of the Sunday School and the church’s first female Deacon, praised Garrett’s effort saying, “I knew her when she first got here.”

Many church leaders echoed those sentiments. This week Garrett and the voices from Alfred Street will perform in Southeast after a sunrise service at the church at 6 a.m. 

A Perfect Duet

Garrett’s best friend is James, her husband of more than 50 years. They live in Fort Washington, where they raised three children, two sons and a daughter.

Garrett and her husband talked about her ministry.

”He has been my number one supporter,” Garrett said of James, who talked about when he first met his future bride 57 years ago. 

“I saw her in the Hot Shoppes, and I asked her if I could walk her home. Back then, you didn’t ask girls to take them home in a car,” he said.

“Joyce is an amazing person, and I am always part of her team, but I don’t sing,” James said. 

The two emphasized they work together to share all their loads.

“I became the primary cook, and I am still the cook,” Joyce responded. “He is great with collard greens; I have the cornbread. We have a great partnership.”

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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  1. Dr. Joyce is our gift from you Jesus Christ our Savior. I know how much you love music and your daughter sister Joyce have been doing your Will. Thank you Savior and Dr. Joyce. I’m honor to be in both your presences Amen .

  2. I was fortunate to be graced up close and personal in the presence of her gift. She gives it freely. All due honor inductee of the Eastern High School Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Mrs. Garrett you are heaven sent, a community pillar, and choir director extraordinaire!

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