ASC Honors-Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Arts, Science or History celebrates the lifetime achievements of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg resident in the visual, design or performing arts, history, literature or science. Thanks to the generosity of the Cato Corporation, ASC is also able to honor lifetime achievement in teaching art, science and history for Pre-K-12 teachers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region with the ASC Honors-Cato Lifetime Achievement in Teaching Awards. To find out more, click here.
By Bea Quirk
Clara Jones’s love of music and devotion to her piano students were so intense that when she retired from private teaching in 2011, her house was filled with 26 pianos. To accompany them all, she and her late husband Cedric had enlarged their Lincoln Heights home six times.
“She has reached hundreds — probably thousands – of students,” says her son Rev. Cedric Jones, Jr. “And her impact on their lives went well beyond music.”
Jones began teaching music in Charlotte’s public schools in the 1950s, then began teaching privately when she retired. She also served as minister of music and choir director at Baptist Church West.
It was her love of music and her love of God that enabled Jones to escape the extreme poverty she experienced growing up as a daughter of sharecroppers in Franklin County, North Carolina and Newport News, Virginia. “For me, the door leading to a better world would be through music and education,” she told an interviewer.
When Jones first heard piano music on a radio belonging to her school principal, her life was transformed, she has said in interviews. Seeing her keen interest and then her talent, the principal started giving her piano lessons.
Later, with that same kind of determination and faith, Jones graduated cum laude from Hampton Institute and then came to Charlotte. She also earned a masters from UNC Greensboro.
Her son Cedric says his mother never lectured him and his three sisters about music. “Music was always a part of the household – someone was always playing or practicing.” His sisters all played piano and one other instrument; he played the trumpet.
But for Cedric, his mother’s accomplishments go far beyond music lessons and teaching piano. “My mother had the gift to teach life lessons as well as music lessons and then integrating them together,” he says.
“Even if they did not spend their life playing an instrument, her students learned about preparation, the work ethic, discipline, how to practice and rise to the occasion, which all helped shape their success.”