MOST PEOPLE take one look at tall, dark and handsome Joseph Conyers, and assume that he's a professional athlete, most likely a football player. Much to nearly everyone's surprise, this 33-year-old hunk is a fit, smart, hardworking classical musician.
"I love classical music," beamed Conyers, who is the Philadelphia Orchestra's effervescent assistant principal double bassist.
Although Philadelphia is now his beloved adopted home, the Savannah, Ga., native was nurtured in a close family centered around the church and music. Immersed in classical music since age 5, Conyers credits his mother, a chorus and gospel singer, for planting the seeds of excellence early in him and his two siblings.
"I grew up in the Baptist church, where I was surrounded constantly by music," recalls Conyers. "It was also at that time that my mother fell in love with classical music. My mother wanted us to learn how to play that kind of music."
Now, being a highly accomplished and award-winning classical musician, and a graduate of Philly's own world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music, speaks volumes about Conyers' exceptional talents and hard work.
What, you may ask, is better than being fully in charge and on top of your game? Well, it certainly doesn't hurt, and it might even help, having a head-turning physique, which Conyers surely has.
It's obvious that Conyers is a man who thinks intensely about everything he does. As an orchestral musician, it is especially important to take care of one's primary instrument, the body. "As a musician, I'm a small-muscle athlete, and I started lifting weights because the big muscles have to help the little muscles," Conyers said.
Then, of course, there's the 40 hours a week of practice and rehearsal, not to mention the grueling time on the road - packing, traveling and performing.
At this elite level, keeping the body healthy and fit is not mere vanity, but a prerequisite for doing and keeping the job.
Although most of us probably never gave it a second thought, it is extremely important for musicians to be not only healthy, but fit as well.
"Much like athletes, intense mental concentration is required of musicians, too, and musicians can also become plagued with tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and overuse injuries," Conyers explained. Avoiding injury, therefore, became his main motivation for hitting the gym in the first place, back in 2003.
Then in 2012, he decided to up the ante again, by competing in his first bodybuilding competition, Mr. Natural Philly. He told absolutely no one that he was competing in a physique show, and much to his and everyone else's surprise, he won!
And, just when you think it couldn't get any better, not only is Conyers an inspirational fitness competitor and world-class musician, he is also a man of strong convictions and heart. A true believer in paying it forward despite his nonstop schedule, Conyers remains committed to community and education through music. In addition to running his music nonprofit, Project 440, he is putting his time and passion into in his new stewardship of the Philadelphia School Districts's All-City Orchestra.
If Conyers has his way, and I'm certain he will, all children in Philadelphia will have access to a rich music education. Just like envisioning his transformed physique, Conyers has a vision that, through the power of music, lives can be transformed and music energy harnessed to build strong communities everywhere. If anyone can do it, Conyers can.