The first time Collegiate School Orchestra Director Melissa Jones played the violin for her 3 ½-year-old son Charlie, he cried. His reaction was no reflection on his mother’s talent, however.
“He was very young and I played very loud,” she said. “And he wants to be with me. He doesn’t want Mommy to practice.”
Not that she has much time for that. In her role at Collegiate, Mrs. Jones oversees 103 ensemble students in Grades 3-12. She also directs the Upper School Orchestra, the Collegiate String Ensemble, 5th-6th Grade String Ensemble, 7th-8th Grade String Ensemble, 4th Grade String Ensemble and 3rd-4th Grade Ensemble.
“Between concerts, assemblies and off-campus performances, including regional orchestra events involving our students, we have about 16 performances every year for our strings students,” she said.
In addition, Mrs. Jones teaches 11 private violin and viola students and has started an Upper School Music Club called Tri-M Music Honor Society, a service and performance organization run by student musicians.
The classically trained violinist, violist and cellist (she also plays the piano) earned her bachelor’s degree in music education at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and subsequently a master of performance at the University of Tennessee.
While she enjoys playing all of the instruments, she feels drawn most to viola and violin, which she feels suit her personality.
“I am competitive on some level and that suited me well as a violinist, but I’m also pretty easygoing and I like being collaborative, so the violist has to do that,” she said.
The daughter of two educators (her dad taught music; her mom language arts), Mrs. Jones began violin lessons at age 4. Her path to teaching music seemed almost destined.
“Being a musician and coming from a family of teachers, it was an easy path to see as an option,” she said. “I pondered some other interests, but there was really no other choice. I really wanted to do music.”
A Virginia Beach native, she returned to the state after graduate school and taught in Hanover County for 16 years at the elementary, middle and high school level.
Ready for switch, she arrived at Collegiate in 2018.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better change,” she said. “I feel extremely lucky every day to get to work here with this great community of students, parents and staff.”
She enjoys working with both beginner and advanced students, and appreciates opportunities to team up with students and other faculty members.
“The students and faculty do so many collaborations,” she said, “and the School gives us time to plan those types of events, whether it’s something that’s done every year like Brunch or the musical, or something new.”
When she does find time away from her long list of duties, Mrs. Jones can be found with her family, which in addition to Charlie, includes her husband Aaron and stepson Ezekiel. All, unsurprisingly, are musical in their own rights. Charlie has taken to singing of late.
“He likes to make up words to his songs and he’s been asking me to sing him to sleep, which is really sweet,” Mrs. Jones said.
Her husband is a former DJ and sells music media from his collection of 10,000 vinyl records and 40,000 CDs. Ezekiel is a musician, who plays bass, drums and guitar for several bands.
They also spend time making their family’s famous applesauce, ACME, that they give to family and friends as gifts during the holidays.
“The name is the first initial of all of our names,” Mrs. Jones said. “MACE wouldn’t work.”