Honor to play for the Huntington Symphony Orchestra

By McKENNA HORSLEY, The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — One of the most memorable performances with the Huntington Symphony Orchestra for John Jones was the first after its charter in 1970.

Jones, 72, who is now the symphony orchestra’s principal horn player, was then a student at Marshall University. The concert was given on May 2, 1971 at the Huntington Galleries. The symphony was then known as the Huntington Chamber Orchestra. The group would later change its name around the turn of the century.

Jones replaced another French horn player and would later become a contract member. Within two to three years of that initial gig, Jones was named principal horn player.

“It was an honor to be able to play for all these people,” he said.

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For more than 50 years, Jones has been part of the Huntington Symphony Orchestra. His experience has included a number of events, such as performing at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., for the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976 under founding conductor Paul W. Whear . In March 1984, Jones was the guest soloist on the orchestra’s 30th season.

Over the years, several important members and contributors to the symphony orchestra have had an impact on Jones, such as David Becker, viola; Nancy Whear, violin; Patricia Green, principal violinist; Janet Bromley, violin; John Mead, trombone; Théodore Heger, principal oboe; and Paul Whear, founding conductor of the Huntington Symphony Orchestra.

Jones likes to play classical music the most, but film scores such as “Star Wars” or opera music are also very important to him. Many of these arrangements use a French horn, he said.

Before moving to West Virginia in high school, Jones grew up in the Chicago area. His father first had him take piano lessons before Jones learned to play the French horn with Louis Stout, who was part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and would later teach music at the University of Michigan. Jones was 6 years old when he started learning the French horn.

Jones, who is now retired from Orders Construction Co., lives in St. Albans, West Virginia. During his construction career, he found a way to balance music with his work. While at Marshall, he debated majoring in music, but ultimately chose to study political science.

“I couldn’t have asked for more, to be able to work for them and pursue that love of music that I had… I was very lucky, very lucky,” Jones said.

Music director Kimo Furumoto, who began conducting the Huntington Symphony Orchestra more than 20 years ago, said Jones played an important leadership role as principal horn player for many years. Jones is “a big fan” of the symphony orchestra. Every time Jones plays a beautiful horn solo, he lights up the room, Furumoto added.

Jones has “quiet confidence,” Furumoto said.

“He’s an ever-present person and always there to get the job done,” he said.

Ian Jessee, who became the symphony orchestra’s executive director last year, said Jones was the organization’s longest-serving member. Jones contributes not only as a principal horn player, but also as a member of the Sustainer Society, which contributes to the overall success of the symphony orchestra.

“He’s totally committed to this organization so I’m thrilled to have him on our team,” Jessee said.

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