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Smooth Jazz artist Jackiem Joyner reflects on his music mentor for Syracuse Speaks BHM

Smooth jazz and saxophonist Jackiem Joyner rolls up his sleeves with his sax nearby.
Jorge Cabrera
Jackiem Joyner
Smooth jazz and saxophonist Jackiem Joyner rolls up his sleeves with his sax nearby.

As part of the next Syracuse Speaks, we’re checking in with some of the most successful black professionals in music and the recording industry for Black History Month. Composer and saxophonist Jackiem Joyner who grew up in Syracuse is one of the biggest names in smooth jazz. Last year he scored a number one chart topping single “Missing You” and it became the 5th best single in all of 2023 on the Billboard charts. What many of his fans may not know is that Joyner became inspired by his band teacher and mentor Lou Adams in the Syracuse City School District.

“He really appreciated my sound because he was kind of struggling with the band and I was one of the only kids who would bring my saxophone home. Everyone else would just leave it in the band room and just come to band, pick-up the instrument and play. But, I was one of those students who would always bring my saxophone home. Mr. Adams really enjoyed that because he would always give me the difficult alto parts that some of the other kids couldn't paly because I was always practicing.”

Joyner was drawn to music, so much that he couldn’t wait to go to school every day. He feels he defied the odds of being raised in a low income family and by a single mother.   

“I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. I think my experiences as an African American were very enriching. They toughened me up, they kept me on my toes and reminded me to keep pushing and also reminded me of this responsibility that I have to go as far as I can. Because I grew up where a lot of people who look like me could never make it out of the projects and different things like that. So, I owe it to myself and to my brothers and to people who look like me to go as far as I can.”

When asked what he feels his role is today as a black musician, Joyner says he loves inspiring young musicians and encourages them to keep practicing just like his band teacher did. Joyner is looking forward to sharing his own expertise and experiences when he is scheduled to be a guest speaker in August in the Syracuse City School District. You can hear his full-length interview on our Syracuse Speaks Black History Month special this Thursday at 2 PM on WAER.