Mason High School Orchestra Director Stephanie Jones had a big surprise waiting for her at the Ohio Music Education Association 2016 state convention.
The founder of Mason City Schools orchestra program was named the 2015-16 Public School Teacher of the Year by the Ohio String Teachers Association during the convention held in Cincinnati on January 28.
"I am humbled and honored by this recognition," Jones said. "It has truly been an amazing and rewarding experience to have the opportunity to teach young people the power of music in this wonderful community. I am fortunate to have the opportunity every day to work with amazing students who are incredibly diligent, perseverant, dedicated, generous, and kind. All of the successes of the Mason Orchestra program are a direct result of the hard work of these amazing young people."
Jones was nominated by her peers for being a role model in the string teaching profession, and going above and beyond the job description to make a difference in the lives of students.
Fourteen years ago, district leaders hired Jones to build an orchestra program that would expand Mason City Schools’ commitment to the arts, and encourage students’ creativity. In 2002, 70 Mason Intermediate sixth graders began orchestra for the first time. Today, the nationally recognized orchestra program spans grades 6-12 and counts over 1,200 students as members
3 Questions with Stephanie Jones
1. What has it been like to watch one of your babies, the Mason City Schools’ orchestra program, grow up?
I can’t believe it has already been fourteen years. It feels like just a few short years ago that the first class of sixth graders was in my classroom. They were the pioneers who led the way for the Mason Orchestra program’s success. They were the students who first put Mason Orchestras on the musical map by getting accepted as a freshmen class to perform at the 2007 OMEA Professional Conference, as well as being selected to perform at the National Orchestra Cup in New York City in 2009. Now, just eight short years later, the Mason Orchestras have competed with great acclaim and success many times at the state and national levels, including the premiere festival for high school orchestras, the ASTA National Orchestra Festival. Some of the most memorable experiences over the years revolve around the collaborations with amazing professional musicians. These opportunities have crossed musical genres ranging from collaborations with professional orchestras like the Cincinnati Symphony to modern mixed genre groups like Barrage, Section Quartet, and Time for Three.
I am still in touch with many of our Mason Orchestra alumni who are now mature young adults, contributing to our society as doctors, teachers, journalists, chemists, artists, biologists, military, parents...the list is endless. What makes me most happy is to hear from students, many years after they graduate, and hear about how music still affects their lives and has had a profound impact, no matter their career choice. My primary goal of being a music educator is to teach students the power of music so that they can understand, know, and love it for the rest of their lives.
2. Why is music so important for children and teens’ development?
Music gives words to our innermost feelings and emotions and is an outlet for personal expression. Music is what makes us human. Learning a musical instrument and participating in a music ensemble teaches important life skills that contribute to enriching the education of the whole child. Music utilizes both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously - the logical and analytical left brain, as well as the creative and innovative right brain. Creativity and imaginative innovation are critical skills in today’s global economy. Music study also teaches students important skills for success such as self-confidence, problem-solving, time management, leadership, discipline and working cooperatively.
Attaining skills on a musical instrument opens many doors of possibility for students. The more they learn, the more successful they feel, which in turn raises their self-confidence. The better they become at their instrument the more self-empowered they become in order to unlock the creativity and innovation that is inside each of us.
3. What’s your favorite piece of music, and why?
Asking me to pick my favorite piece of music is like asking me to pick my favorite child! A surprise to many of my students is my vast love of many different genres and styles of music. My students always find it intriguing when they discover I listen to music beyond orchestral classical music. If we are talking about orchestral music, some of my favorites are: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; Beethoven’s Symphonies #3 & #9; Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #4, Romeo and Juliet and Serenade for Strings; Shostakovich Symphony #5; Dvorak Cello Concerto and String Serenade; Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade; Bach Cello Suites…. Oh wow, I could really go on for awhile!