Q&A: Mr. Nathaniel Jones, Music

Mr.+Nathaniel+Jones+%28music%29+sits+at+his+desk+in+his+office.+This+is+his+third+year+at+Lake+Central.

Mr. Nathaniel Jones (music) sits at his desk in his office. This is his third year at Lake Central.

Ava Solis

Q:  How did you first get into music?

A:  My mom is an elementary music teacher so I’ve been around music my whole life. When I was five years old I did my first musical with [the old theatre directors Paul and Angie Lowe] at the old Lake Central. I was a bum on the street in “Annie,” and then I kind of got into band and played the trumpet through middle school, and then I decided, I don’t even know why, to switch to choir my second semester [during] my freshman year. That was the first time I’d ever done choir, and I pretty much told my choir teacher that I was gonna take her job when she retired, and I heckin’ did.

Q:  How do you manage your time in terms of learning music?

A:  Well I use my plan period, before school and after school. Usually those are like the main three that I’ll practice [during], and obviously [we rehearse] the music that I need to know in class, so while the choir is learning their vocal parts, I’m also kind of learning my piano part along with them, and there’s pretty much a daily repetition of it.

Q:  What’s the hardest part of teaching?

A:  The hardest part of teaching in general is trying to make sure your school responsibilities are complete by 2:30 or 3:00 and not getting overloaded to the point where you have to take it home and continue working at home. So I think the hardest part of teaching would probably be just containing it in the work day because it’s really easy to overflow and end up basically going home and opening my laptop and working on music and practicing at home and letting it kind of take over at home and school. The most difficult part of teaching choir is the ensemble aspect of it because it’s not like other classrooms where it’s just each individual student is responsible for their own success, but you have to create this ensemble [i don’t know what kinda word] kind of feel. It’s almost vital that everyone at least can get along moderately to be able to be successful. It’s not like if one person is absent or one person is slacking off, it only hurts them. It hurts the entire ensemble. So the hardest part of teaching choir is keeping a team [together].

Q:  What’s the best part of teaching?

A:  I always feel like the best part of teaching is seeing students do things that they did not think they could do because at the beginning of the year they come in and I put up the first couple sight singing [exercises] on the board and everyone like craps their pants, and then at the end of the year they’re like, “That was kind of easy! Oh, I can see how this works, this makes sense.” So seeing them go from thinking it’s impossible to doing it is great, and then obviously the best part of being a choir teacher is getting to do music everyday as well as concerts. Getting to do music everyday is like a dream.

Q:  What do you do in your spare time?

A:  Arrange music, play guitar. I’m really good at Mario Kart Wii and Super Mario Wii. I could speedrun Super Mario Wii in thirty minutes flat from start to finish. I have a couple friends in the area that I went to high school with that I still keep in touch with so we hang out pretty frequently for like holiday parties, weddings stuff like that. I also am a well-known player on an online flash game called The Way of the Ninja where I create my own maps and communicate with other players via discord.

Q:  What led you to choose music as a profession?

A:  What else was I supposed to do? Music and teaching are the two thing I’ve always loved to do. Helping people, explaining things, figuring stuff out [and] just sharing music with people has always been super exciting and fun for me.

Q:  How does your life at school compare to your life outside of school?

A:  I really don’t mind going home and working on stuff, but especially now with the baby at home I feel like I need to work harder to keep it at school so when I go home I can help out and give [my wife] a break. I feel like I’m pretty casual at school. I make the same dumb jokes at home.

Q:  How long have you been teaching at Lake Central?

A:  This is my third year.

Q:  You graduated from LC, what led you to start teaching here?

A:  After I graduated I started teaching up in Hammond at George Rogers Clark Middle-High School and I actually ran into Miss Hobbs at ISSMA that year, and I hadn’t seen her pretty much since I graduated and she kind of pulled me aside and was like, “Hey, I haven’t told the students yet but I’m gonna be putting in my retirement so you should definitely apply for the job.” And so it was something I always wanted to do because it’s closer to home and I’ve always loved the choir program here, and the bells, not many high schools have bells anymore. It was just kind of a weird conflict that I happened to run into her right before she [retired] so I interviewed for the position, and I wasn’t the only person looking for the job, and for some reason they gave it to me.

Q:  How has the experience of teaching high schoolers been so far?

A:  I like the balance because it’s a little bit more mature than middle school, but like not too much to the point of like college level to where they already think they know what they’re doing. [Students are] still young enough to have fun but [also] old enough to be able to actually do serious music and make some quality music and not just have all the songs be like “We’re just singing karaoke!” Like we could actually do some quality, serious music and make some awesome music. I don’t think I’d ever teach at a college. I like the high school age.

Q:  Other than music, what other passions do you have?

A:  Piano? Arranging music, listening to music, playing music. Playing an obscure flash game called The Way of the Ninja, and I mean, my wife and my daughter obviously so I mean I like music and family, family and music, I don’t know what else.

Q:  How many instruments can you play?

A:  I only really play piano and guitar seriously, both self-taught. I just started teaching myself piano in choir class on the side on this same piano during my freshman year of high school. And then guitar, same thing, I picked it up sophomore/junior year of high school and started teaching myself. Beyond that I mean I played trumpet so I could probably pick up the trumpet and make a few notes in the lower range. Bass, I can play electric bass pretty much because it’s like guitar. So that’s pretty much it. I can’t play like a wide plethora of instruments.

Q:  Was there anything else you considered to pursue besides music?

A:  If I wouldn’t have taught music, I would be arranging music full time or trying to perform music full time. There might’ve been a few other possible career paths, but they weren’t music. If I would’ve went like music performance, there was a good chance that I would’ve had to take a different, more traditional job for a little bit. I started college as a music education major and it was like a huge force load. It was like the biggest credit load at the university and I was not mature enough at the time to handle that and I bombed and failed Psych 101 my first semester of college which is like the easiest class to pass, and so I dropped the education side and just got a bachelors in music and that kind of led me to [me not being] sure what to do with my life, and after I got my bachelors I started subbing for extra money and as soon as I got back in the classroom I was like “Okay this is definitely what I want to do.” I already had the music degree so I just went back and got my teaching certificate through like a one-year program, and here I am.

Q:  What do you hope to accomplish for the future?

A:  Just to continue on and ever upward. With the choirs, building up the numbers. Hopefully one year we’ll get a new [ISSMA] banner because [2009] was the last time concert choir has been to state, so just kind of building up their ability and their musicality and getting to be the best choir we can be, hopefully eventually we’re recognized at a state level through the ISSMA competition. Basically just to continue giving kids a place to sing and experience music in high school whether they do it professionally or just recreationally.