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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Rusty Jones reflects on career in music

  • Dr. Russell “ Rusty” Jones wasn’t sure what he was going to major in at Duke University.“I was thinking about pre-med or music,” he said. “I knew I could make it in pre-med, but I wasn’t sure that I could make it in music. After I took a semester of lessons I decided I could b...
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  • Dr. Russell “ Rusty” Jones wasn’t sure what he was going to major in at Duke University.
    “I was thinking about pre-med or music,” he said. “I knew I could make it in pre-med, but I wasn’t sure that I could make it in music. After I took a semester of lessons I decided I could become a decent player after four years and I wanted to. I got a teaching degree, thought I’d try that and see if I liked it, and I did.”
    To make a long story short, Jones will step down as Pittsburg State University music department chairman and enter phased retirement at the end of this semester after well over 40 years of teaching at PSU.
    He performed Friday as a guest soloist with the PSU Jazz Ensemble 1 at the opening of the PSU Jazz Festival, an event he founded in 1974.
    After he left the stage, current festival director Bob Kehle called Jones back and he was surprised by Pittsburg Mayor Michael Gray, who presented him with a framed certificate designating the day as Russell Jones Day in Pittsburg.
    “I had no idea about this,” Jones said.
    In fact, the presentation by the mayor and standing ovation from the audience rendered him speechless, a condition that his colleagues say is not common for him. However, Jones recovered by intermission, and was able to reminisce about his life and career.
    He was born in West Virginia, the son of parents rich in musical talent.
    “Mom and Dad both loved music, but neither of them could read music,” he said. “They were good singers. Dad could improvise on piano and guitar, anything, all by ear. He just amazed us.”
    Jones played piano when he was very young. The family moved to North Carolina when he was 14, and in seventh grade his brother invited him to come to band rehearsal.
    “He said they had beautiful majorettes there, so I came and the band director put drum sticks in my hand,” Jones said.  “Then another director talked me into clarinet.”
    He received a bachelor of arts from Duke, taught band, chorus and general music in North Carolina schools, then went to graduate school and earned a master’s degree in music education and a doctorate, both from Indiana University.
    “I was going for a master’s, and they talked me into a doctorate,” Jones said. “After I got my doctorate, I came here and I’ve been here ever since. One of the things I liked was that here I was able to continue playing music. I didn’t want to give that up.”
    Page 2 of 2 - He said that he interviewed at a few other places, including Indiana and Wisconsin, but decided against going some other place.
    “I was happier being able to do a lot of other things here,” Jones said.
    His PSU duties include teaching instrumental music education, bassoon, woodwind techniques and some graduate courses and, of course, the administrative work associated with being a department chairman.
    However, Jones also continues to be an active performer on bassoon, clarinet, saxophone, oboe and English horn. He has performed with the Southeast Kansas Symphony, Springfield Symphony, Northeast Arkansas Symphony, Fayetteville, N.C., Symphony, Iola Symphony, PSU Band and bands and orchestras at Indiana University and Duke University. He also performs in chamber music, jazz, musical theater, large ensembles and as a soloist.
    Jones has published articles in “The Instrumentalist,” “The Journal of Research in Music Education,” “The Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education” and “The Midwest Double Reed Society Newsletter.”
    Jones will be on phased retirement for three years, though he has the option of leaving his teaching position earlier if he chooses. At the moment, he has no set plan for his retirement, though he does expect to be staying around Pittsburg.
    Jones is sure that he wants to continue doing what he most enjoys.
    “I want to keep playing music, and I want to teach a few lessons,” he said.

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