For Will Carter, a teacher at Knoxville's Joy of Music School, a chance encounter at a local music store prompted an invitation to perform with legendary singer-songwriter Jackson Browne.
After a jam session with members of Browne's road crew at the store, he was invited to meet the pop-folk singer before Friday night's show at the Tennessee Theatre. Browne took an interest in Carter's work at the nonprofit music school and invited him to perform three tunes during the show.
Besides enjoying Carter's guitar playing, Browne had his interest piqued by the Knoxville musician's job as music outreach teacher for the Joy of Music School, which provides free music lessons and instruments for financially disadvantaged youth.
After the sound check, Browne toured the school's Euclid Avenue facility. The school's mission hit home with Browne, who is involved with similar programs in his home base of Santa Monica, Calif.
"I just want to tell you that what you're doing is so close to my heart," Browne told executive director Frank Graffeo. "It's just incredibly inspiring to meet people who are taking it into their own hands to see that the world they want to see gets created here."
Browne, known for classic pop hits such as "Doctor My Eyes" and "Runnin' on Empty," listened closely to Graffeo's explanation of various aspects of the local program and offered stories of the successes seen in the programs that he is involved with. He offered to make connections for the school with some of the other programs he supports.
"People want their children to play instruments and understand music and enjoy it," said Browne. "It's really something you can immerse yourself in and make a cornerstone of your life and your appreciation of everything else. I mean, music makes food taste better."
Showing interest in each aspect of the program during the building tour, Browne offered much praise for the efforts of the Joy of Music School.
"It's great to encounter a community that is willing to roll up its sleeves and provide for its children what they need to become the kind of world citizens that we need," said Browne. "The kind of people that can enrich their own community."
During the visit, Carter downplayed his own musical endeavors, saying, "I teach and I play whenever (I can). Just say I play around."
Modesty aside, last night the local music teacher "played around" at a historic theater alongside a music legend.
Randall Brown may be reached at 865-342-6446.