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Husband and wife retiring from jobs as church music directors

Holly Viers • Oct 13, 2019 at 8:00 AM

KINGSPORT — For Jim and Janet Lyon, music has always been a family affair.

The couple met while studying music in college, and both have spent most of their careers as church music directors. Now, the two are preparing to retire in January, though they know music will always hold a special place in their hearts.

“Jim and I both, we like what we do,” Janet said. “It’s just been our life forever.”

Two directors, two churches

Janet currently serves as music director at Mafair United Methodist Church, while Jim holds a similar position at Colonial Heights United Methodist Church. Both grew up in this area and studied music education at East Tennessee State University, where they met.

“We actually met on stage,” Jim said. “We were doing ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ by Mozart, and my best friend, who I also roomed with, was … supposed to do a stage slap. She (Janet) was supposed to come between us and stop, and she hit something that was slick on the floor and slid right off the landing and knocked me upside the head, for real. Then I had to turn around and sing just after that, with my nose bleeding. So she literally struck me off my feet.”

After earning their bachelor’s degrees, they enrolled in graduate school at the University of North Texas, studying performance. They put their education to work back in the Tri-Cities, serving in various churches and even spending some time teaching before settling into their current roles.

A changing world

Janet has worked at Mafair for 23 years, while Jim has been at Colonial Heights for 34. During that time, both said one of the biggest changes they’ve observed is the decreasing availability of church volunteers.

“I know when we first started working in churches, a lot of times the mother was able to stay home, or one of the spouses was able to stay home. And they were able to volunteer more time in the church, and it’s not that way now,” Janet said. “Everybody’s working; even the kids are working. You have to do a lot of modular things, just short-term projects, and get people involved that way.”

The next generation

The music bug didn’t stop with Jim and Janet. Though their son, Devin, works as a full-time lawyer in Knoxville, he also serves as a part-time music director at his church, while his wife is an associate high school band director.

“(Devin) is also the president-elect of the Knoxville Choral Society, and he was in Drum Corps International for four years and competed throughout the United States in the summers. … So he’s heavily involved in music, also,” Jim said.

What’s next?

Once Janet retires on Jan. 12 and Jim follows suit on Jan. 31, they hope to devote more time to traveling. They are planning a road trip from Chicago to the West Coast next year, Jim said.

More important, they hope to spend more time with their son’s family in Knoxville, especially their 2-year-old grandson, Everett. They also look forward to going to the same church, something they haven’t been able to do while working.

“When we’re in Knoxville, we’ll probably go to Devin’s church,” Jim said. “I’m interested in kind of visiting around and going to other churches to see what’s out there, because we don’t get to do that but two or three times a year.”

Jim and Janet’s churches have formed search committees to fill their music director positions. For information on how to apply, contact Mafair United Methodist Church at (423) 378-9620 or Colonial Heights United Methodist Church at (423) 239-6031.

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