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Sean Jones performs with Jazz I during a visit to St. Olaf


Last week, Jazz I and Jazz II had their semester concert in the Pause, and Jazz I had the opportunity to perform with Sean Jones who was doing a jazz residency at St. Olaf. Jones is a prominent trumpeter and composer in the modern jazz world who also teaches and performs with jazz ensembles across the country.


Jones has performed in many musical roles in the past, including a position in the Lincoln Center Orchestra jazz ensemble for six years. He has released eight studio albums, with the most recent one being recordings from a live performance in 2017. He has featured in the Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Ohio, and Cleveland orchestras, among other world-renowned ensembles.


Aside from his accomplishments in the performing arts, Jones is also an educator. He is the current president of the Jazz Education Network and holds a position as a jazz chair at the John Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute. He has also taught at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Currently, he serves as artistic Director of the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) Jazz Program at Carnegie Hall.


Jones taught a masterclass at St. Olaf on May 2, where he coached one of the jazz combos through their performance. At the masterclass, he emphasized playing with the heart and the importance of understanding form.


Jazz I had the opportunity to perform some of his original compositions featuring Jones at the concert. The repertoire they performed included “BJ’s Tune,” “Into the Sun,” “The Ambitious Violet,” and “Touch and Go.” 


I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Jones before the concert. During the interview, he talked about how he became affiliated with St. Olaf.


“Joseph Jefferson [Associate Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Ensembles] is a dear friend and trusted colleague,” Jones said.


Jones is an advocate for spreading jazz culture where it needs to be learned. He is heavily inspired by spirituality. Music and spirituality go hand in hand to the trumpeter and are important to his artistic vision. 


“The first thing I want students to take from this experience is that it’s okay for them to be themselves. The world needs them,” Jones said.


Jones also encourages students to get involved in leadership early. “I think it’s important for people my age to begin to empower young people to be leaders immediately. Who’s to say that a young person doesn’t have great ideas?” Jones also discussed the importance of gaining perspective. “Everything that exists is valid. Even though you may not agree, it’s important to recognize other ways of being.”


The masterclass and the performance on Friday night were packed full of people eager to hear Jones play, and he did not disappoint. He captivated the audience with his incredible solo work and heartfelt compositions. The energy in the room was powerful and the crowd gave Jones and the students a standing ovation. He left a mark on the St. Olaf community, jazz students, and audience members that will not soon be forgotten.