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The prince of American collaborative pianists.

Pianist Warren Jones, "the prince of American collaborative pianists according to Richard Dyer of The Boston Globe, is truly setting the standard for collaborative artistry and inspiring his students and colleagues in the process. Named "Collaborative Pianist of the Year" for 2010 by the publication Musical America, Jones was honored along with four other outstanding musicians in a ceremony at Lincoln Center. Quoting Sedgwick Clark, editor of Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts, "What strikes us in Mr. Jones' performances is his idiomatic singing line, subtle rubato and ability to adapt to his various partners' unique musicianship without subjugating his own character." Well said! Warren Jones performs regularly with such vocal luminaries as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Denyce Graves, Stephanie Blythe, Samuel Ramey, Anthony Dean Griffey, Ruth Ann Swenson and Bo Skovhus. In the past, he has partnered such great performers as Hakan Hagegard, Kathleen Battle, Barbara Bonney, Judith Blegen, Tatiana Troyanos and Martti Talvela. He has appeared in concert with Marilyn Home and continues a special association with her at the Music Academy of the West summer festival, where they are the driving forces behind the voice and vocal piano programs there. He has been invited to participate regularly in the annual Marilyn Home Foundation gala festivities at Carnegie Hall, both as performer and master class teacher. He was an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera for 10 years and for three seasons served in the same capacity at the San Francisco Opera. Of his work in the vocal realm, Jones says, "It's so interesting to be on the stage with singers, because they literally play their bodies. I play a machine and have a wonderful relationship with a machine as far as I'm concerned. But they are playing their bodies and, as a result, it is an incredibly physical and visceral experience to be onstage with them." This quote is from an interview in OperaNews, June 2005.

A man of many talents, Jones does not limit his collaborative activities to singers. He has performed and recorded with numerous instrumental soloists, including renowned trombonist Joseph Alessi and critically acclaimed violist Richard O'Neill. He has appeared in concert with the Juilliard, Borromeo and Brentano string quartets and is currently principal pianist with the very successful Santa Barbara-based chamber group, Camerata Pacifica. Critic Donald Rosenberg of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says, "Jones is a musician par excellence no matter what he is interpreting. With the Borromeo, he adapted his finely etched pianism to every phrase, finding the right balances and making sure he was the dominant force or secondary player in the artistic conversation." His international appearances in both contexts include the Salzburg Festival, Milan's Teatro alla Scala, Paris' Theatre des ChampsE1ysees and Opera Bastille, Wigmore Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Cultural Centre in Hong Kong, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and theaters throughout Scandinavia, Japan and Korea.

Jones's discography includes more than 25 recordings. He can be heard on every major record label--in diverse repertory from Schubert and Brahms to more esoteric compositions of Gretchaninoff, Clarke and Smit--as well as contemporary works by John Harbison and Lori Laitman.

Not to limit himself to these fulltime artistic pursuits, Jones also wields a baton with consummate skill. In the summer of 2009, he conducted sold-out, critically acclaimed performances of Mascagni's L'amico Fritz with the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera. This summer he will conduct the Music Academy of the West's 2011 opera production of The Barber of Seville. He is also a prominent jurist, having been a judge for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Awards, the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the American Council for the Arts, to name a few.

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Clearly this man is a force to be reckoned with, and his contributions to the ever-emerging awareness of what it means to be a truly professional collaborative pianist are already legendary. Perhaps the most important product of his imagination, intelligence and experience is that he has chosen to make time to teach and considers helping others develop their skills a rewarding and fulfilling pursuit. He says, "To see the light bulb go on in a student's face and to realize that they begin to have a wider, deeper understanding of the subject at hand ... that is one of the best rewards that I can think of in life!"

In addition to his very successful career as a presenter of inspiring master classes and his regular work with students at the Music Academy of the West, he is also a member of the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) in New York City. While much has been written about his accomplishments as a performer, it is important to explore his teaching persona. Even with his full-time performing commitments, he tries to carve out two days a week regularly for his work at MSM. A typical teaching day there this year would include four private lessons with his own collaborative piano majors, an hour set aside for conferences and then a special two-hour seminar for singers and pianists. The pianists in the seminar are his students and the singers are admitted by audition. The configuration this semester is four pianists and 10 singers with a balance that includes voice students from both undergraduate and graduate programs at the school. The subject matter for this important class is determined by the vocal talent. Jones looks for a unifying theme, since all possible repertoire is of import and interest to the singers and the pianists, and in the past has addressed such topics as the songs of Johannes Brahms and Mozart opera arias. Occasionally, he may focus on just one opera for the whole semester. Lately he finds it stimulating to plan a more diverse curriculum exploring various styles of vocal music. One can only imagine how much these pianists and singers learn by working together in such a class. By its very definition, collaborative education needs to involve both (or all) members of a team. Jones says, "I learn more than the students. Teaching has helped my performing and vice-versa." To illustrate that his philosophies have proved effective, his former students are now on staff at numerous opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera and the Vienna Staatsoper among others. He stays in touch with all of those students and continues to be their advocate and mentor.

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How did this man become Warrren Jones, collaborator and coach extraordinaire? He was always who he is now. Born in Washington, D.C., he grew up in North Carolina and graduated with honors from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He has been honored with that school's Outstanding Alumni Award and currently serves on the Board of Overseers. His graduate study took him to the San Francisco Conservatory and that institution awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in the spring of 2010. There is a special story from his earlier time in San Francisco that supports the theory that the Warren Jones, who is so respected and revered today, was there then, developing on a dally basis.

One day at the conservatory, a young oboist named Mark Ackerman was peacefully (more or less) working on the difficult oboe concerto of Richard Strauss in a practice room. Suddenly the door burst open and there was this pianist that Ackerman barely knew from classes shouting, "Do you have a piano part for that piece?" Ackerman did, and the pianist, who was of course Jones, sat down and began reading the orchestral reduction. After a brief recovery, Ackerman joined him and the rest is a very telling "history." Ackerman remembers that in playing with Jones that day "there was suddenly time to do the things I wanted to do with the music...he taught me, and I didn't even know him!" The happy footnote on this tale is that Ackerman became the principal oboist of the San Antonio Symphony, created the Olmos Ensemble, a successful symphony-based chamber group in 1994, and Jones has been a principal guest artist with that group since then. Jones's most recent performance with the Olmos Ensemble was October 26, 2010, featuring performances of Schumann's Romances, Op. 94, a group of songs by Richard Strauss and that same composer's monumental Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 18. A quintessential Jones program.

Singer Stephanie Blythe, Musical America's Vocalist of the Year in 2009: "Mr. Jones has a way of coaching that makes learning like a series of light bulbs getting switched on." Recalling a concert the two performed together, she said that Jones showed her "all the things that a true partnership with a pianist can achieve."

Bravo, Mr. Jones!

Anne Epperson, piano, IS a noted collaborative partner, teacher and clinician. She is currently professor of collaborative piano at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin and is head of the new collaborative piano program she created there in 2008.
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Title Annotation:Conference Artist; Warren Jones
Author:Epperson, Anne
Publication:American Music Teacher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2010
Words:1511
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