When it comes to the art of the violin, JaVonne Jones can be considered one of the greats.
Jones sits down with WJBF DIGITAL as she talks about how she got started in music and shares an inspirational message for others.
Thank you for joining us here. Now, let’s get into it. How did you get started in music?
So, I remember when I was a little girl, I was going to church with my sister and my aunt. They sent us to church every Sunday. There was a young lady, and I have no idea who it is, even to this day, but she was an African-American lady that was playing a violin on the pulpit. I had to be maybe seven-years-old. So, I was pretty impressionable at the time, but I knew from that moment that I wanted to play that. It was a little bit early, so, I wasn’t able to play until I got into fourth grade. I’m a product of the Richmond County School System and joined the Richmond County Orchestra in the fourth grade, and I’ve been playing ever since. I played through elementary school at [C.T.] Walker, and I went to Davidson and played there. Then I wanted to kind of give it up because I got bored with it, but I did go to school and majored in music. So, I kept that going, and I realized that you could do more stuff on it. By that time, people started playing more contemporary styles of music on the violin. That’s how I got into it, and I’m still going today.
What’s your inspiration when it comes to music? What inspires you?
So, when I was in the classical classroom, the one thing that I didn’t really like was the fact that you had to play music that was on paper. You had to play it the way they write it. You have to play it the way the composer wanted it to be. I always had a struggle with that because I felt like music is supposed to be me, it’s supposed to be a part of me, and I’m supposed to be playing what’s in me. “No, I’m playing what’s in Bach, Beethoven.” (Laughs) So, I was like, “I’ll play it because I just like the instrument,” but it wasn’t really what I really, really loved to do. So, when I was about 14 or 15 years old, I’m in the church, and I’m like, “I want to start learning how to play some of this gospel music that I hear in church.” I just started plucking through stuff, listening, and finding notes on my own until I realized, “Hey, I can listen to a song and figure out how to play it.” Then, from there I’m like, “I can really start playing music that I feel like is based on my life experiences.” I can play songs and say, “Hey, I’m feeling this song. I’m going through it, so I want to play this.” It feels so great to know that I could take the things that happened in my life, draw from that, and be able to play music that’s inside of me, and I am able to share with the world.
Now, the school year has started, and for kids that want to get into music, what words of encouragement or advice can you give them?
You know, we’re dealing with different children in 2023. They’re in the technological age. So, one thing that I want kids to understand is that music can be fun, but it’s also serious. It’s about routines and rituals. It’s about regular practice, and it’s not going to come to you microwave-like, like a lot of our students today like things to come quick. Even with teaching violin, I have students that maybe about a month in they decide that they don’t want to do it anymore because it’s hard. It’s going to be hard. Violin is probably one of the hardest ones. I dibble and dabble. I did some classes in college with some horns, percussion, and piano, and of what I’ve done, violin is probably one of the harder ones. So, it’s not something that you can just commit to once or twice a week. It’s actually a process. You have to literally practice it consistently day after day if you can. Like I told my students this year, what amount of time can you commit to your practice efforts? Even if it’s only 15 minutes, as long as you can be consistent with those 15 minutes and make it your best uninterrupted 15 minutes, that’s enough for me. Then, you can grow into it, and it never stops. I had a student say, “Hey, you still practice? You know how to play violin.” And I’m like, “You still have to practice the instrument.” Yeah, it never stops because I don’t know everything. So, I’m still teaching myself. I’m still watching videos and learning, I’m still practicing every day and learning new songs. So, you know, it’s not something that you can just put down. I’m 40 years old now. I’ve been playing for 30 of those years, and it never stopped. So, anything for kids, be consistent. If you want to play, that’s great that you have that in you and just find some time to be consistent with practice efforts. There’s no perfect, but you can progress with it and keep it going as long as you want to keep it going.
What advice would you give an adult who would be interested in getting BACK into music?
I was just doing a post the other day about being hard on self. You know, we’re older now, and we’re developing into these beings. A lot of times they say that you can’t change so don’t beat yourself up in it. Give yourself grace because kids are sponges. They can soak this stuff up really good. For us, not so much. (Laughs) So for us, it might take us a little bit more. You know, our hands don’t do like they used to do, and our brains don’t quite operate the way that they used to back then when we were actually learning this stuff and was really sticking. So, give yourself some grace. It is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Take yourself at the pace that you need to go, and you’ll be good. A lot of stuff comes back like riding a bike, I promise you. It’ll start coming back to you the more that you do it. Then, you realize that it is not as hard as it seems.
So, what do you have coming up?
Well, one thing that I’m doing is really special and a little bit different. I’m going to be a presenter. It’s for adults at Augusta University, and I’m doing a team building activity through music. So, that’s pretty amazing that you can take what I do in my career as a musician and an educator and show people that you can build a good team by doing these activities. So, I’ll be doing that Friday afternoon (August 11th) and I’ll be at Chayz Lounge in Columbia, South Carolina on Friday and Saturday this week (August 11th and 12th). Then, next weekend, I’ll be in Johnston, South Carolina to do an event.
I’m just blessed because doing this for a living is kind of scary because everything kind of depends on other people. However, when you put your work ethic in it, you work hard, you continue to do what you’re supposed to do, the rest is going to come.
If people want to follow your journey, how can they do so?