For Jay Jones, it’s all about the music.
Mostly self-taught, the 17-year-old Shadle Park senior plays trumpet, guitar, piano, trombone, French horn and flute – and has many kudos and awards that speak to his passion and ability.
“More than that,” Jones said, “if it weren’t for music, I’d have ended up a hood rat.”
There were family issues that caused stress in his younger years, plus a neighborhood bully who beat him up soundly and was a source of additional pressure as Jones sought ways to avoid him. And with no outlet for his own anger issues, he started getting into fights himself, nearly getting expelled from elementary school. He enrolled in Spokane Public Schools’ Odyssey Program for gifted middle school students, and it was there that he began making friends, and it was also where he realized that he needed to find a way to get a handle on his behaviors.
Both his father and stepfather play guitar, and there was always good music in both the homes he lives in. “When I started to play, there was an emotional aspect to it that was a true outlet.”
And with music, Jones blossomed.
At Shadle he has tried, as he puts it, to take a step above and do for his school and society. In his freshman year he and friends created a group to assist Invisible Children, the international organization that brings awareness to the abducted children in Uganda forced to serve as soldiers. He has also maintained his academics, even taking precalculus as a sophomore.
Jones is first trumpet in Shadle’s Jazz Band and drum major, and also started the school’s jazz combo, made up of a piano, bass, saxophone, drums and trumpet.
The combo was scheduled to perform at the annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho this year, and the pianist was unable to attend at the last minute. The group went on just the same – and came in first place in the festival’s combo division. He was recognized this year as one of the Spokane Jazz Society’s Young Giants of Jazz.
Jones recalls learning some important things at the summer jazz camps put on by Eastern Washington University, where he met national trumpet star Marcus Printup, who encouraged him to master the basics by listening to Louis Armstrong, to absorb the cool sounds by listening to Miles Davis – to learn from the masters before he tried to find his own sound. And he credits Kevin Hartse, Shadle’s band director, “who has been like another father to me; he’s always had my back.”
Although Jones loves music and music performance, he felt he didn’t quite have a handle on stage presence, so he got involved with drama at school. “I learned a lot of lessons about how to be on stage,” he said, “and I think that helps me give a better music show now.”
Gym and advanced conditioning classes at school also helped channel his energies. “My dad always pushed me in athletics, but I really found my calling in music,” said Jones, who hopes to teach music at the college level. “And when I did, my dad supported me and even helped me get into EWU.”