Resident Spotlight: Janie Smith


Music provides one of the joys of life. There is scientific evidence that listening to music uses all parts of the brain, thereby enhancing brain cognitive function. It is also known that playing a musical instrument increases these benefits. A recent study reported by Penn Medicine News, indicated that even beginning to play the piano between 60-85 years of age maintained the cognitive functions significantly! Residents of Kirby Pines have a unique exposure to a variety of musical performances. We are fortunate to have many residents who are talented musicians; one is Janie Smith, who performs as pianist for Vespers, Sunday morning worship services, the health areas, memorials and as primary pianist for our choral group, The Entertainers.

Lois Jane (Janie) Provence was born in a small community close to Knoxville, Tennessee. She had a sister who was 13 years old and a brother who was nine when she was born. According to Janie, “I think they would have been much happier without the interruptions of a baby sister.” As a child she remembers her greatest joy was swinging and singing and riding her bicycle. Janie attended elementary and secondary schools in Knox County. She began taking piano lessons when she was nine years old and was allowed to leave her school for the lessons. Janie’s goal was to be able to play the piano in church. She got that opportunity when she was 12 years old; the regular pianist at their church was absent one Sunday. A man who attended that church heard her play and asked her to play for his quartet. With them, Janie would travel to many revivals, homecomings, and special services at other churches. While in high school, Janie played piano for two choirs and graduation services.

Following graduation from high school, Janie enrolled and graduated from the two-year Knoxville Business School program. She began employment at Merrill-Lynch, for whom she worked for 21 years.

Young Janie

Soon after her graduation and beginning her employment at Merrill-Lynch, Janie was invited to her best friend’s church. Her friend wanted her to meet someone “she was crazy about” and wanted to date. That someone happened to be Edgar Earl Smith. Well, no surprises how this turned out! Earl’s father kept reminding him about that cute, blond girl that occasionally visited and played the piano at church. Janie had also been recruited to play for another gospel quartet and was traveling with them to other churches. Eventually, Earl asked Janie for a date. They were married a year later (1960) in the same church where they met. They would live in Knoxville where they were both employed.

Janie decided that she wanted to learn to play the organ and enrolled in lessons. In 1985, she decided to begin learning the pipe organ, a more complicated instrument. She contacted an instructor, and with her previous talent, she quickly learned. With her teacher’s encouragement, she gave a performance at the Fist Baptist Church in Knoxville in 1990. Also, Janie and Earl learned of a church, First Baptist Concord in Farragut, Tennessee, which was close to Knoxville. The church had a wonderful choir and needed someone to replace the retiring organist. Janie would play the organ for that church for many years as well as piano for two ladies choirs that sang for civic groups and different venues.

Janie and Earl lived and worked in Knoxville until 1992 when Earl was transferred to Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was the Operations Manager for American Limestone Company, a division of Asarco Corporation. The primary business was selling crushed rock for paving roads. Earl, needing a change, chose to begin employment for a similar company, Martin Marietta Materials in Indiana, and finally, a move to Maryland for similar work. Earl retired in 2003, and Janie and Earl moved back home to Knoxville. Both enjoyed the retirement life: having a large garden, Earl playing golf, and Janie continuing her music. They were also “die-hard” University of Tennessee football fans and were season tickets holders for 40 years! They attended many away games after retirement.

Earl & Janie

In 2018, Janie and Earl made the decision to move to Memphis to be close to family members. Both were beginning to experience health issues. They looked at several places and were glad to learn about the continual care options available at Kirby Pines. The decision was made to move to Kirby Pines in 2018. Earl is now a resident of Job’s Way, our memory care unit. Janie visits him daily and frequently plays the piano for the residents there.

Janie and Earl were a godsend to Kirby Pines. Not only is Janie a wonderful pianist, her positive attitude and warm personality make for pleasant associations. She gives so freely of her time to play for many of the musical venues at Kirby. She definitely has filled a void with her talent. 

Janie misses those East Tennessee mountains but enjoys living at Kirby Pines. She especially appreciates the friendly people and staff and all the amenities that are available. She enjoys yoga and is pleased to be able to share her musical talents. Thank you, Janie and Earl, for making the decision to be a part of the Kirby community!

Written by Joan Dodson, Resident of Kirby Pines.