Though he is best known now for his orchestral compositions, Samuel Jones first came into prominence as a conductor, one of the few Americans to advance through the ranks of the smaller American orchestras to become conductor of one of the majors (the Rochester Philharmonic). He then achieved national recognition in another field when he founded a significant new music school and served for six years as its first dean (Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music). All the while he has continued to compose, quietly amassing what has become a vital and frequently performed catalog of music.
After stepping down as dean, Jones continued as Professor of Composition and Conducting as well as Director of Graduate Studies at the school he founded, for a total of 24 years of association with Rice University. In 1997, he retired from full-time academic life, and he and his wife moved to the Seattle, Washington area where he was set to become Composer in Residence of the Seattle Symphony, appointed to the post by Gerard Schwarz, music director of the orchestra. It is a position he still holds today.
Nowadays, while Jones focuses most of his creative energies on composition, he still manages to spend significant time as a teacher of conducting, for which he has developed a wide reputation. As a past president of the Conductors Guild and as a master teacher at the Conductors Institute, the League of American Orchestras, and other conductor training activities and seminars, Jones is making a strong contribution to the advancement of the American conductor.
As a composer, Samuel Jones has also gained increasing recognition. He is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes for his compositions, including a Grammy nomination in 2009 for the Seattle Symphony recording of his The Shoe Bird, a Ford Foundation Recording/Publication Award, a Martha Baird Rockefeller Grant, NEA Grants, repeated ASCAP Awards, an International Angel Award, and the 1986, 1991, 2003 and 2007 Music Awards from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters. The Seattle Symphony presented him with its 2002 Artistic Recognition Award for outstanding service to the orchestra. He was inducted in April, 2000, into the inaugural class of the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. He was recently named the Music Alive Composer in Residence for the Meridian Symphony by Meet The Composer and the League of American Orchestras. In 2000, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Millsaps College and was named Alumnus of the year by his Alma Mater in 2009.
His works have been performed by such orchestras as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Detroit Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the New Jersey Symphony, the Syracuse Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra, the New Orleans Philharmonic, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and scores of others. He has been commissioned to write new works by the ASCAP Foundation, Meet The Composer, the Houston Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the American Symphony Orchestra League, the Amarillo Symphony, the Midland-Odessa Symphony, the Sioux City Symphony, the Saginaw Symphony, Millsaps College, the Mississippi Boychoir and the Choral Society of Greensboro, among others.
Samuel Jones was born on June 2, 1935, in Inverness, Mississippi. A graduate of Central High School in Jackson, he received his undergraduate degree with highest honors from Millsaps College. He acquired his professional training in music at the Eastman School of Music, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in composition, studying with Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers and Wayne Barlow. A former conducting student of Richard Lert and William Steinberg, Jones’ numerous conducting credits include tenures as Conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic, Music Advisor of the Flint Symphony, and Music Director of the Saginaw Symphony, as well as guest conducting engagements with many orchestras including, among others, the Detroit Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Prague Symphony and the Iceland Symphony. Early in his career he founded the Alma Symphony and the Delta College Summer Festival of Music in Michigan.
Jones’ compositions include three symphonies and many other orchestral works, as well as works for chorus and orchestra, an opera and various chamber groups. The new millennium has seen the production of three outstanding concertos written for principal brass players of the Seattle Symphony, the Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra, which debuted in 2006, the Concerto for Horn and Orchestra (2008) and the Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (2009).
His music is published by Carl Fischer and Campanile Music Press and has been recorded by Naxos, CRI, Gasparo, ACA, Brilliance Audio and Centennial Records.