Joe Holbert graduated from Carson-Newman with a degree in music, and later earned a Master of Music degree from West Chester State College. Throughout his career he taught music to young people, in the coal-mining country of West Virginia, in the inner-city schools of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in the mountains of Western North Carolina. He taught in a variety of settings including public schools, The Children’s Heart Hospital, The Methodist Home for Children, a Quaker school, and Montessori schools.
After living in the Philadelphia area, Joe felt led to return to the south. While completing his second master’s degree, in Public Affairs, at Western Carolina University, Joe was offered a job at the university, as the director of the Troubled Youth Outdoor Leadership Institute. In that same year he co-founded and directed a summer program for incarcerated young people called “One Week University.” The program was meant to teach teenagers that higher education was an attainable dream. After the program’s second year, the North Carolina Governor, Jim Martin, recognized Joe for the work he had done with this program.
Joe spent the last twenty-two years of his professional career teaching elementary school music in Transylvania County, N.C. He was honored twice as “Teacher of the Year” at his school. He knew it was time to retire when he realized he was teaching the children of his former elementary students!
Since leaving Carson-Newman, Joe’s avocations were performing as a singer-songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist, and a teacher of shape note music. The singer-songwriter, David Wilcox, on his first CD, credited Joe “for the secret where songs come from.” Joe spent numerous summers at colleges and workshops teaching adults hammered dulcimer, guitar, and shape notes.
Joe and his wife, Karen, are award winning performers at the Asheville Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, the nation’s oldest continuing folk festival of traditional music and dance. They have performed for many venues including the Concert-Lecture Series at Carson-Newman. To this day, music continues to be an integral part of Joe’s and Karen’s lives.