By Crystal Burns
Longtime Trenton Rosenwald Middle School band director Leigh Boyce, who died Tuesday night, Aug. 11, was more than a musician or teacher. She was “music personified,” best friend Leah Jean Rollins said.
“Our musical collaborations on clarinet and piano were amazing,” Rollins said. “She was so talented, and it made me try to do my very, very best to accompany her.”
Former Peabody High School band director Tony Burriss, who worked closely with Boyce during their tenures, echoed Rollins’ sentiments.
“She made you do your best and was never satisfied with mediocrity,” Burriss said. “Her students and colleagues learned to appreciate that these qualities made us all better people, musicians and educators.”
Boyce began her 30-year teaching career at Fayette County, where she spent two years. She joined the TRMS faculty in 1991 and made an immediate impact on the band program.
“Leigh was the foundation of an excellent band program for several [high school] band directors,” said Tim Haney, Trenton Special School District director of schools. “She was the rock.”
Burriss called her the “consummate music educator.”
“She loved music, teaching and most importantly, her students,” he said. “She was creative, inquisitive, and always looking for a way to do what she already did excellently even better. She gave the best parts of her life to making sure her students got nothing but her best and what was best for them.”
Paul Pillow, TRMS principal, said Boyce’s passion for teaching music was unmatched.
“She was an exemplary educator and shared a passion for teaching music unlike any other,” Pillow said. “She was a very strong advocate for the band program at TRMS and PHS, working tirelessly and long hours to make sure that the two programs thrived. She was also a ‘stand up’ person. She always stood for what was right, whether it be with the band program, a student, or a colleague. She took pride in her work being done thoroughly and correctly.”
Pillow has always been quick to brag on the TRMS band, saying Boyce’s students produced better work than many high school bands.
“Their performances were always spectacular,” he said.
Boyce earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin, where she was an officer in Sigma Alpha Iota, a professional music fraternity, and member of the Pacer Band. She received her master’s degree in music education from Arkansas State University.
She was an active member of First United Methodist Church in Trenton and helped the Trenton Teapot Festival Committee solicit bands to march in the annual parade for many years. Her TRMS bands also provided music at Oakland Cemetery Association’s annual Veterans Day program in Trenton.
“We could always depend on her for Veterans Day,” said Betty Poteet, one of the event organizers. “It was a lot of work. She didn’t have to do it. She wanted to do it. We’re going to miss her in our church, and we’re going to miss her in our community.”
Friends counted on Boyce for her humor and sense of fun.
“She loved to have fun and was hilarious to be around in a social setting,” Burriss said. “Her laugh was infectious. She was a loyal friend, a loving Christian woman and one of the finest musicians I have ever performed alongside.”
Rollins said that as she and Boyce grew closer over the years, she uncovered several of Boyce’s hidden talents.
“She was a great decorator and crafty,” Rollins said. “She knew about sewing and fabric. She had excellent taste and kept up with the latest trends in decor. She spent her time online helping me find a pink chair for [daughter] Rachel’s room – or the perfect kitchen table – or the perfect wall hanging or rug or chandelier – the list is endless. She was such a giving friend.”
Boyce intended to take a leave of absence from TRMS this year. Annias Haney has been hired to lead the TRMS band program and teach music.
Boyce is survived by her parents and brother. The family asks in lieu of flowers, that memorials be made to the TRMS band program to purchase new uniforms.