After graduating Andover, Sara Su Jones ’91 began working as a consultant and educator, playing the violin in concert halls around the world. Jones’ interest in the violin was kindled when she was two, and she later brought the instrument into her experiences at Andover. Throughout the years after her graduation, music has remained an essential part of Jones’ life.
“[As a toddler], I’d sit in my high chair with a baby spoon and a baby fork and go through the bowing motions with those items… I was making it really clear that [the violin] was something I was interested in, so [my mother] started letting me use my brother’s violin once in a while,” said Jones.
Jones rarely practiced violin prior to her arrival at Andover, but the rigorous music program and supportive community on campus encouraged her to immerse herself in practicing. During her Senior year, she was the concertmaster of both the Chamber and Symphony Orchestras, as well as president of Chamber Music Society.
“I came back [Lower Year], inspired, already much better, and much more serious about music, and eager to learn and grow as much as I could as a violinist in the next three years. And so, that was kind of the launching point [for] my getting really, really serious about the violin,” said Jones.
In addition to playing the violin, Jones has sung as a soprano in various selective choirs, including the St. James Cathedral Choir in Chicago. Jones continues to explore the notion of transforming her bow and strings into tools for singing.
“It is so important to keep coming back as an instrumentalist to the idea that what we are doing is actually singing. The way we make music should be as natural as possible and as uncontrived as possible in terms of where you pause, where you take your breath, and how you allow the music and the phrase to ebb and flow,” said Jones.
Jones has performed on many international stages, including a 2013 solo recital at Harpa, the home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. With every performance, Jones tries to tell a musical story in her own natural and authentic way.
“I want to engage the audience, to grab their ears and their hearts so that we can go together on this journey that runs the gamut from amusing pieces that stir a little chuckle, to intense, dramatic, or melancholy pieces that [sometimes make people] cry. As a performer, you always want each audience member to walk out at the end of the concert feeling like that was worthwhile,” said Jones.
Even though she involves herself deeply in music, Jones seeks to preserve her enjoyment in music without the burdens of financially supporting herself through music and the obligation of producing music for work.
“Because music is so special to me, almost sacred for me, I’d never wanted it to be the way I made a living. I wanted to always have music as a separate oasis, or a separate refuge. Music could be that space where I go when everything else in my life is crazy or stressful, but I never wanted music to become the thing… that I would want to escape from,” said Jones.
Jones resumed private lessons a decade after graduating college, and she currently studies with violinist Gerardo Ribeiro. She emphasizes that the purpose of playing an instrument should be continuous growth and style development, rather than having everything in life revolve around music.
“The more other non-music things you do in your life, the more stories you have to tell through your music, and the more diverse and fulfilling of a life you might lead. If you have lots of different experiences, you can bring them all back into your music-making,” said Jones.