Joseph was born on October 14, 1891, in Wellington, Kansas, the second son of two teachers. Joseph never graduated from high school, but as a young man, he attended the Wichita College of Music in Wichita, Kansas, where he studied violin. Later he became a member of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. In 1918, he became the first music supervisor of instrumental music in America when he accepted the position in Rochester, New York.
After a short time in Rochester, Joseph was encouraged by Will Earhart to take a job at Morton High School in Richmond, Indiana, to revive the outstanding school and community music program Earhart had developed there some years earlier. Joseph remained in Richmond for four years. In 1924 Maddy was invited to Ann Arbor to become the supervisor of music in public schools and the chairman of the Music Department for the University of Michigan. There he developed one of the few conducting courses in the country, and he also conducted the Michigan All State High School Orchestra. While teaching in 1925, Maddy organized the first National High School Orchestra to play for the Music Supervisors National Conference (MSNC) in Detroit in 1926. In 1927, Joseph was invited to bring the National High School Orchestra of over 250 High School musicians from 39 states to the MSNC in Dallas that year.
While in Ann Arbor, Maddy also pursued other approaches to music education by developing teaching materials in collaboration with Thaddeus P. Giddings for a radio teaching program.The radio program taught band and orchestra instrumentation with instruction books distributed by NBC. By 1936 their radio program aired five times per week, and believed to have reached 225,000 student listeners. It was sustained until 1940, and employed professional musicians to help with technique demonstrations.
In 1928 Maddy formed the National High School Orchestra and Band Camp, incorporated as the National High School Orchestra Camp on July 6, 1927.The camp exists today in Interlochen, Michigan, as the Interlochen Center for the Arts and has generated several complementary entities including Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen College of the Creative Arts, and Interlochen Public Radio.Joseph also published and collaborated on a number of instructional materials and courses for elementary band and orchestra including the Universal Teacher, Tritone Folio, the Willis Graded School Orchestra and Band Series, and the Modern School Graded Orchestra Books.
He was a member of the Epsilon Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and a recipient of the Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award. He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity, and he received an honorary degree from Earlham College in 1965.
This pioneering music educator passed away on April 18, 1966, at the age of 74, in Travers City, Michigan.