Dr. Joseph Akins is a professor, pianist and composer, and has been deeply involved with music all his life. As a youth, he performed in his family’s country-rock band and toured with the pop-rock band Blaze. After the band split apart, Joseph enrolled in college to study composition, electronic music and jazz piano eventually earning him a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee and a Master’s degree from Radford University. Since that time, Joseph has had a sustained career in music and higher education with the release of eight solo albums and the acquisition of a doctorate in education. Today, Joseph divides his time between being a music artist and teaching as a tenured professor for the Department of Recording Industry at Middle Tennessee State University.
Awards and Acknowledgments:
2017-2018: Into the Flow
- Number 9 on the Billboard Chart for New Age Albums
- Nomination for “Best Solo Piano Album of the Year” by Enlightened Piano Radio
- “Top 20 Favorites of 2017” at MainlyPiano.com
- Number 11 on the Zone Music Reporter Top 100 Radio Airplay
2015-2016: Castle Moon
- Winner for “Best Album of the Year” by Enlightened Piano Radio
- Nomination for “Best Album of the Year” by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio
- Nomination for “Best Solo Piano Album” by Zone Music Reporter
2013-2014: A Southern Sun
- Nomination for “Best Solo Piano Album” by Zone Music Reporter
- “Top 30 Favorites of 2013” at MainlyPiano.com
- Nomination for “Album of the Year” by Enlightened Piano Radio
2011: A Piano Christmas
- Winner of “Album of the Year” at SoloPianoChristmas.com
- Nominated for “Best Holiday Album of Year 2011” at SoloPiano.com
2009 – Spirit Touch
- “Top 40 Albums of the Decade 2000-2009” at MainlyPiano.com
- “Top 30 Favorites of 2009” at MainlyPiano.com
2007 – Masterpeace
- The title track, “Masterpeace”, was selected for one of the “50 Best Piano Songs of All Time” at Reviews New Age
I was raised in a musical family in Chickamauga Georgia (close to Chattanooga, TN). At age ten, I began to play saxophone in school band and take formal piano lessons. Two years later, I became proficient enough on these instruments to join my father’s country-rock band performing every weekend at local venues. This experience had a large impact on my life. I recall standing on stage at this time thinking that music would always be a part of my life.
I continued to play in my father’s band throughout my teenage years and soon began playing with various local top-40 rock bands. One such band was called Blaze, for whom I was the keyboard and saxophone player for two years. During this time (ages 17-19), I received my first experience with touring, studio recording and the rock and roll life style. But when Blaze disbanded, I decided to enroll in college to further advance my music skills and understanding. During the following years, I studied and practiced vigorously while majoring in music at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga and Knoxville.
During this time, my dream of becoming a rock star had become replaced with the desire to be a jazz musician and educator. Therefore, after I received my Bachelor’s degrees in Jazz and Electronic Music, I attended graduate school on a jazz fellowship at Radford College in Virginia. This was my first experience with teaching in higher education. I enjoyed it immensely but after graduating with my master’s degree, I moved to the Big Apple to pursue a career in music. But this was cut short. Within a year, I moved back home to Tennessee due to health and financial issues.
Deciding to continue with my music career in Tennessee, I began teaching music at Chattanooga State and released a solo album, Keys to the Heart. This was my first heartfelt album and was dedicated to my father, who had just passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. The album included vocals by Unita, a beautiful singer-songwriter that I began dating shortly before the album was made. Her vocals were featured on four songs on that album while the remaining were instrumental. We had such a good experience, we collaborated on a second album the following year. Through the Veils featured her as the singer-songwriter on all tracks. The following year, we married!
Year 2000 was a turning point. That year, I was offered a tenure-track faculty position at a really cool recording program at Middle Tennessee State University near Nashville. Relocating there, I plunged into teaching music production and began working on a doctorate degree in education. At MTSU, I began to teach courses in Pro Tools, MIDI and Sound Synthesis (I still do this today).
After completing my doctorate in 2006, I was ready to record another album and decided to make this one a solo piano album. Titled Masterpeace, it was recorded on a beautiful grand piano at MTSU and I put my whole heart into it. In fact, I was so moved by the experience, I decided to make a commitment to work hard at recording and performing my original solo piano music over the following years. Since that time, Masterpeace has become my most played album on Pandora and the title track was included in the “Top 50 Piano Songs of All Time” by Review New Age.
Shortly after Masterpeace was released, I became involved with Whisperings Solo Piano Radio. This occurred after a trip to Atlanta to hear the legendary pianist David Lanz play in a Whisperings concert. I fell in love with the whole concept. Since that time, I have hosted over 100 Whisperings concerts and have performed with many great pianists such as David Lanz, Liz Story, Philip Wesley, and Whisperings radio founder himself, David Nevue. All good times!
In 2009, I recorded and released my next album Spirit Touch. It combined solo piano pieces with tracks that include instrumentation (piano instrumentals). Cello, percussion and more were added to accompany the piano. I loved the resulting sound. MTSU had just purchased a new API console and with audio engineer Bill Crabtree, we recorded and mixed the album on this console. Over the following year, “Night Shadows” became a popular track on Pandora radio and Music Choice Soundscapes. Kathy Parsons acknowledged Spirit Touch as one of the Best Albums of the Decade 2000 – 2009.
In 2010, I released by first songbook, Selections from Masterpeace and Spirit Touch. Using a notation program called Sibelius, I created all the sheet music and self-published the book. It included five songs from each album (a 2nd edition was later released with two additional songs).
It was time create a holiday album so I also spent my time in 2010 working on piano arrangements of popular Christmas carols such as “Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night”. To include playful tracks, I arranged “I’m Getting Nothing for Christmas” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in a ragtime style. The album was recorded during summer of 2011. It was strange recording a Christmas album in July, but Bill Crabtree and I did it. A Piano Christmas was honored “Holiday Album of the Year” by SoloPianoChristmas.com. In addition, two of the arrangements were re-recorded for Whisperings Christmas Volumes 1 and 2.
In 2012, I purchased my first grand piano, a beautiful Yamaha C7. I was so inspired having it in my home, I practiced and composed constantly. And during summer of 2013, I recorded my next album A Southern Sun. It includes fourteen original solo piano compositions that celebrated my Southern roots. “Watertank Hill”, a tune dedicated to my hometown, has become a favorite, and “An Inspiration” was my first song to be placed on XM/Sirius Radio. In 2014, this became my first album to be nominated for a Zone Music Reporter award.
In 2014, I notated all the music for A Southern Sun, and self-published my second songbook. Since the majority of A Southern Sun way happy and sunny, I decided to explore night themes with my next album by composing more music using minor keys and exotic scales. In 2015, while recording some tracks for Bill Leslie’s new album Across the Water at Piano Haven studio in Sedona, Arizona, I recorded a dozen solo piano tracks for Castle Moon. Over the following year, the album was nominated for “Album of the Year” by both Whisperings Solo Piano Radio and Enlightened Piano Radio. It was a blast performing as a nominee at the Whisperings All-Star Concert and Award Show in Costa Mesa, CA in January of 2016 (I also performed the previous year as a guest).
Currently, I am working on my next songbook and next album. And while working on all these creative projects, I continue teaching audio production courses at MTSU as a tenured professor. My courses include subjects such as MIDI, Synthesis and Film Scoring.