Once upon a time, in a world music class, a Tanzanian music professor taught his students that there is no single word in most African cultures to describe music. There is one word to encompass music, but they never separate music from movement. It assumes that everyone will be involved.
One of his students, NIC director of bands, Terry Jones, especially took this concept to heart.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that the participation in music has a connecting power that goes beyond having a conversation,” Jones said. “And there’s a reward to that.”
Jones will be finishing his last semester at the college after a 31 year career of connecting with students and faculty through his music. But he has left his mark on the community by providing countless musical performances throughout his time at NIC.
Jones said that because of the way music works, there’s a greater sense of community.
And community is very much a part of his music as Jones encouraged community involvement in the musical productions he directed. He has used this involvement as an opportunity for mentoring students.
“He’s really big into community, to education, to bringing people to campus,” said Sherry Simkins, division chair of Communication and Fine Arts. “I think that’s probably his largest impact on NIC, is making that connection between community and campus.”
Jones’s musical career at the college began 31 years ago, and during that time, he did much more than direct music. He also contributed to the music curriculum and design, developed the band program and helped students both in their music as well as in their education.
Jones said teaching music wasn’t his only career possibility when he first started out. He would have been much more adept at teaching math, but he felt he could connect with students better by teaching them music instead.
“I got into teaching because I think it’s important that kids know that each one of them can be successful and find their own path,” he said. “And I think music allows me to do that in an easier way than if I taught math.”
Simkins said Jones does have a really strong connection with his students through mentoring them, helping them achieve their goals and inspiring them.
Jones said that teaching music allows and demands more from both teacher and students.
“If the performance is going to be good, I have to inspire people to go beyond just the technical part of playing music,” he said.
Jones’s farewell concert will be “A Swinging Farewell” presented by the NIC music department on Tuesday, May 2. But his final performance will be “A Tribute to Mothers,” on Sunday, May 14 at 2:00 p.m. after which, he will officially sign his resignation. He said that a mic drop may be in order for the grand finale of his NIC career.
“As a department and a division, we will really miss Terry and his absence will be felt, just because he is such an integral part of what we’ve done for 31 years,” Simkins said.
Choral and Music Instructor, Max Mendez has collaborated with Jones in their musical productions.
“Terry always has great ideas and new ideas, so I don’t think he’ll be sitting still very long,” Mendez said. “I think he’s going to continue to live his life as an educator.”
Jones encourages every person to try to learn music.
“It’s so healthy. It’s not about, ‘Oh, let me impress you.’ It’s about ‘Let’s get into this groove together.’ Everybody should do music,” he said. “It’s the one thing that every culture on the planet does. There is not a culture, ever, that has not done music. So why should you grow up without doing it?”