Dr. Joyce Garrett (Photograph by Lois Kebe)

Joyce Garrett – Excellence Without Excuses

WETA Arts Highlights Eastern High School Reunion Concert

Moderator Robert Aubrey Davies, WETA’s Special Edition Arts Series, features highlights of Washington DC’s Eastern High School Reunion Choir – Alfred Street Baptist Church’s Music and Worship Ministry Director, Dr. Joyce Garrett directed this internationally renowned choir for over 30 years.

Joyce Garrett’s Biography

Joyce Garrett has enjoyed a long, honored career as a music educator and choral director. A native of Kinston, North Carolina, she was educated at Bennett College in Greensboro, NC, and later earned the Master of Music degree from The Catholic University in Washington, DC. She served as choral master for two annual television specials: Christmas in Washington (NBC and TNT) and The Kennedy Center Honors (CBS) for twenty-five years. Her Eastern High School Choir won international acclaim and was the choir of choice for many top artists including Diana Ross, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, and many others. She founded the Excellence Without Excuses after-school intervention and scholarship program which led her students to nearly 100 percent college attendance.

Video Highlight

Watch the choir sing with Patti LaBelle at “Christmas in Washington” on NBC TV (1993)


Joyce Garrett joined the faculty of Eastern High School in September 1972 in response to demonstrations by students who wanted to add gospel music to the concert choir offerings. After a few years performing as separate choirs, Garrett combined the Eastern Gospel Choir and the Eastern Concert Choir to form the Eastern High School Choir with the motto of singing “360 Degrees of Music.”

1976 Musical Production I Gotta Keep Moving
1989 Choir Rehearsal


Joyce Garrett continued to expand the choir’s repertoire. Her strategy was simple: “Sing the gospel music selections with the same artistic standards and attention to quality and stage presence as you sing Classical music.”

1988 – Won Silver Trophy in Vienna, Austria

The Eastern High School Choir was invited to compete in 1988 at the prestigious choral competition, the International Youth and Music Festival in Vienna, Austria. The choir overcame insurmountable obstacles with singers who could not read music, learning required competition music by Mozart and Borodin in Latin and German, respectively, and raising $160,000 to travel.

1988 Vienna Celebration
Awards Banquet

Excellence Without Excuses

Following Europe, observing that her students, though musically gifted did not have a firm grasp of the tools for success and that offered many excuses for not setting and accomplishing goals; Garrett founded the “Excellence Without Excuses” program.


The Eastern Choir continued to receive many notable invitations and was frequently called on to provided background vocals for many top artists including Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Labelle, John Denver, Natalie Cole, Yolanda Adams, James Taylor and many others. The choir performed on the Emmy-Award productions “Christmas in Washington” and the “Kennedy Center Honors” from 1988 through 2014.

1997 Christmas in Washington
Singing at Redskins Football Game

2000s and Independent Choirs

Joyce Garrett retired from teaching in 1999 yet continued to volunteer as choir director until 2005. In 2000, Patrick Lundy became the music teacher and associate music director of the Eastern High School Choir; and the choir released its third CD, “Let There Be Peace”, produced by Joyce Garrett and Patrick Lundy.

Reunion Concert

In 2018, Joyce Garrett organized a reunion concert to celebrate the choir’s achievements over the decades and highlighting the 1988 European choir. The sold-out concert was held at The National Church of God in Fort Washington, MD, hosted by WHUR-FM radio personality Jacquie Gales-Webb.

2018 ESHS White Affair