Joy Riggs

Joy Riggs, writer and Editor

author of Crackerjack Bands and hOmetown boosters




about Joy

Joy is an award-winning freelance writer and editor based in Northfield, Minnesota, a quaint and historic two-college town located 50 miles south of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

She specializes in writing about history, parenting, and travel. She writes about her family's adventures in making and appreciating music at

Joy is the author of Crackerjack Bands and Hometown Boosters: The Story of a Minnesota Music Man (Nodin Press, July 2019).

ORDER BOOKS HERE: Content Bookstore, Northfield

Cherry Street Books, Alexandria, MN

Or through an independent bookstore near you: IndieBound

The book recounts the extraordinary exploits of her great-grandfather, a pioneering Minnesota band director, and his talented pianist wife through times of war, peace, economic hardship, and personal tragedy. Ultimately, it’s a story about the power of music to transform lives and connect people across generations.



Crackerjack Bands and Hometown Boosters Available Now

from IndieBound

Crackerjack Bands and Hometown Boosters  is available at    Content Bookstore    in Northfield,    Cherry Street Books    in Alexandria,    Beaverdale Books    in Des Moines,    Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery    in Park Rapids,    Drury Lane Books    in Grand Marais, and    Valley Bookseller    in Stillwater.

Crackerjack Bands and Hometown Boosters is available at Content Bookstore in Northfield, Cherry Street Books in Alexandria, Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery in Park Rapids, Drury Lane Books in Grand Marais, and Valley Bookseller in Stillwater.

Joy Riggs is a wonderful writer whose humor, grace, and careful research will make any reader care deeply about this family. The book illustrates what each of us can learn about ourselves by understanding those who came before us. It’s also a testament to the power of music to create community, connect people to one another, and make “time and place dissolve.” — Kate Hopper, author of Ready for Air and Use Your Words

Other praise for Crackerjack Bands and Hometown Boosters

G. Oliver’s life and work is far enough in the past to be legendary, but recent enough that living people still remember him. This makes for both a lively review of American community band history and a chronicle of charming interviews. It is also an affirmation of the town band as a vital part of the American way of life.

Paul Niemisto, founder and artistic director of the Vintage Band Festival and author of Cornets & Pickaxes: Finnish Brass on the Iron Range

Joy Riggs has pulled from the folds of Minnesota history the remarkable story of a man who changed the musical landscape of the state. With warmth, intelligence, and insight, she describes his profound impact on the musicians he taught and the grace and happiness he brought to countless audiences in an era when the highlight of a week’s entertainment might be an afternoon concert in the park.

Ashley Shelby, author of South Pole Station: A Novel and Red River Rising: The Anatomy of a Flood and the Survival of an American City

Joy Riggs’s portrait of her great-grandfather is far more than a family history. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in band music, small-town Minnesota life, or multi-generational family relationships. She makes this man and his music resound gloriously.

Dr. Timothy Mahr, Professor of Music and Conductor of the St. Olaf Band

Impeccably researched and told with heart, Joy Riggs illuminates how one musician’s lifelong passion for teaching and performing inspired generations of young musicians.

Carolyn Porter, author of Marcel’s Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man’s Fate

Joy Riggs offers not only an intriguing family story, but one that reveals something about the world we live in today. Through impeccable research and engaging writing, Riggs has crafted a riveting history of her great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, a real-life ‘music man’ bandleader in Minnesota and points beyond. Riggs’s own story serves as the harmony to G. Oliver’s melody, and I was fascinated by the people and places she discovered on her journey into the past.

Rachael Hanel, author of We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter

With grace and compassion for the music man she never knew, Joy Riggs takes us on an engaging journey of discovery from the Civil War battlefields to the small towns of Minnesota. Her sharp eye for detail, compelling story and personal yearning illuminate the life of her great-grandfather—a man who inspired a generation of musicians, molded young boys into men, and whose legacy continues to reverberate through the American heartland today.

J. A. Moad II, assistant professor of War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities

It’s a story about a bandmaster, it’s a story about the history of bands in the Midwest, it’s a story about a great-granddaughter’s search to connect with her great-grandfather, and at its heart it’s a story about the power of music and the joy and pride it brings to those who make it.

Patrick Kearney, Teacher Leadership Facilitator, Johnston (Iowa) Community Schools



Joy's bio



Joy's essays, columns, and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the Star Tribune, Minnesota Parent, Minnesota Monthly, Minnesota Good Age, StoryNews, BLUNTmoms, Grown and FlownTopology Magazine, Peacock Journal, Mamalode, Great Moments in Parenting, AAA Living, Viking Magazine, the Carleton College Voice, Minnesota Law & Politics, the Des Moines Register, the Indianapolis News, and the Better Homes and Gardens publications Beautiful New Homes and Building Ideas.


Past and present clients include: • SERC, The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College • the Northfield Historical Society • the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative • the Carleton College Voice • the Vintage Band Festival • NorthfieldHistorical • the Northfield Youth Choirs

Radio/podcast appearances

• Joy was the guest on the Wayne Eddy Affair on KYMN Radio, Joy Riggs, Aug. 15, 2019.

Open Line on KXRA Radio, Voice of Alexandria, Aug. 9, 2019

ArtZany! Radio with Paula Granquist, KYMN, Northfield Garden Club Tour and Author Joy Riggs, July 11, 2019

ArtZany! Radio with Paula Granquist, KYMN, Writers Joy Riggs and Rob Hardy, January 20, 2017
Deep in Bear Country; a Berenstain Bearcast, Episode 57: the Week at Grandma’s, July 2, 2016
This Northfield Life with Brad Ness and Corey Butler, Joy Riggs interview, October 14, 2015

PRofessional Memberships

Society of Professional Journalists the Minnesota SPJ Pro Chapter the Association of Writers and Writing Programs the Loft Literary Center • the Historic Brass Society

Volunteer work

Joy serves on the board of the Vintage Band Festival, a nonprofit group that organizes a four-day international vintage music festival in Northfield every three years and a one-day festival featuring all-Minnesota bands in the intervening years. The next one-day festival is set for August 1, 2020.
Joy serves on the board of the Northfield Historical Society.
Joy is a past president of the Northfield Fine Arts Boosters, a nonprofit volunteer group that works to promote and support fine arts programs in the Northfield Public Schools. She served on the Northfield Youth Choirs board from 2008-2014 and on the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative board from 2003-2013.

Upcoming appearances

Oct.9, 2019 (St. Cloud, Minn.): Joy will discuss her new book and her research process at the Stearns History Museum, 9-10 a.m. The Breakfast Club event is free for museum members and $7 for non-members.

Oct. 12, 2019 (St. Paul, Minn.): Joy will sign copies of her book from 10-11 a.m. at the Twin Cities Book Festival (look for the Nodin Press booth at the Progress Center and Fine Arts Building, Minnesota State Fair, 1265 Snelling Ave.)

Oct. 19, 2019 (La Crosse, Wis.): Joy will read from her book and discuss the importance of music education with Abbie Leithold-Gerzema, 2-3 p.m. at Leithold Music in downtown La Crosse.

• Nov. 2, 2019 (Crookston, Minn.): Joy will be the featured speaker at the Polk County Historical Society’s annual meeting at the Crookston Inn and Conference Center.

Nov. 6, 2019 (Duluth, Minn.): Joy will sign books from 3-5 p.m. at Zenith Bookstore in Duluth.

Dec. 12, 2019 (Northfield, Minn.): Joy will sign books at the Northfield Historical Society from 5 to 8 p.m. during Winter Walk.


Joy received numerous awards for the teen and tween column she wrote for Minnesota Parent magazine for five years: First place, Best Magazine Column, 2013 Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists Page One Awards Gold award, Family Matters Column, Parenting Media Association's 2013 Editorial Competition • Second place, Family Matters Column, Parenting Media Association’s 2011 Editorial Competition Silver award, Best Magazine Column, Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association’s Excellence Awards, 2013 Second place, Best Magazine Column, 2010 Minnesota SPJ Page One Awards Bronze award, Best Magazine Column, Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association’s Excellence Awards, 2011 and 2010 Third place, Best Magazine Column, 2014 Minnesota SPJ Page One Awards • Finalist, Family Matters Column, Parenting Media Association's 2012 Editorial Competition

This column plays to the writer’s strengths as a storyteller. It felt more like a conversation over coffee among some moms instead of something more structured and formal, like some parenting columns can be. The writer has developed a strong voice and uses it effectively in her work.
— Parenting Media Association judge, 2013 PMA editoral awards





The Shape of Fear: Facing the Math of Hereditary Breast Cancer, StoryNews, Oct. 1, 2019

Separation Anxiety, StoryNews, May 24, 2019

On a sledding hill, embracing the downward slope of life, Star Tribune, December 25, 2018

Parenting Young Adults by Cell Phone: A 26-Hour Span in October 2018, BLUNTmoms, November 5, 2018

How to Launch Your 22-Year-Old Daughter in Seven Days, Grown and Flown, August 27, 2018

Time Travelers, Writers Night: Community, page 4, June 2018

Stepping Stones, Topology Magazine, August 2, 2017

Hoop Dreams of a Younger Sister, Topology Magazine, June 7, 2017

Interlude, Peacock Journal, March 21, 2017

Heart Strings, Writers Night: A Sense of Place, page 19, January 2017

Depths of a Mother’s Love, Great Moments in Parenting, Sept. 16, 2015

The Art of Parental Embarrassment, Mamalode, Aug. 26, 2015

The Life Cycle of a Swing Set, Mamalode, Aug. 14, 2015

Women’s health: Mastectomy now or later? Star Tribune, April 3, 2015

Disappointment: the Family Vacations Guide, Great Moments in Parenting, June 10, 2015

Life and Death in the Dressing Room, Mamalode, May 4, 2015

When Cancer Grows on Family Trees, Minnesota Good Age, May 2012


Travel articles

Weekend getaway: A day trip to Hastings Star Tribune, Aug. 4, 2012
Iowa City, Iowa: University town bustles in summer Star Tribune, June 2, 2012
Des Moines capitalizes on riverfront Star Tribune, April 14, 2012
Northfield, Minn.: History and arts go hand in hand Star Tribune, March 11, 2012
Fairmont, Minn.: A Fair City by the Lakes Star Tribune, Oct. 9, 2011
Sauk Centre, Minn.: Sinclair Lewis’ ‘Main Street’ Star Tribune, June 26, 2011
A Rebirth for Fergus Falls Star Tribune, May 29, 2011
Mankato: River City Cloaked in Charm Star Tribune, April 24, 2011
Historic Charm Lines the Streets of Mantorville Star Tribune, Dec. 25, 2010
Faribault Brims with New Life Star Tribune, Aug. 22, 2010
Step back in time in Crookston Star Tribune, July 18, 2010
A podcast tour of New Ulm, History at Hand, AAA Living, May/June 2009








Time for a transition! July 2014 When should teens start touring colleges? June 2014 Playing it safe in the water May 2014 Putting the fun back in sports April 2014 Learning beyond the classroom March 2014 Stressful times February 2014 In the driver’s seat January 2014 Our noisy society December 2013 It’s a small world after all November 2013 Building the teacher-parent team October 2013 Later start is a good start September 2013 Accentuate the positive August 2013 Adventures large, small and in be’tween July 2013





Are you interested in my writing/copy editing services? Would you like me to speak to your organization? Contact me by email at writerjoyriggs [at] gmail [dot] com.