Spirited Strings: Laurel Springs Senior and Violinist Julia Jones Builds Her Future in Music
The to-do list for Laurel Springs School senior Julia Jones is simple: graduate from Laurel Springs in June, attend the Juilliard School of performing arts in New York City, and become an interdisciplinary arts journalist. In that order.
Julia is a New York City native with a passion for music coursing in her veins.
She practices for at least five to six hours a day, waking in the early morning to rehearse and attending school later in the day. It’s physically and mentally demanding, she confesses, but the wee morning hours bring her inspiration.
The willpower, on the other hand, Julia brings to the table—or rather, the stage—on her own.
Strength, courage, and wisdom
American songwriter India Simpson once sang in her ballad “Strength, Courage, and Wisdom” that inside her voice there is a soul, and inside her soul, there is a voice. Julia’s soul sings through the voice of her violin. She finds the strength and courage to perform on stages all across the world somewhere within herself.
The wisdom, however, is a gift from her mother.
I think my first-ever memory [of music] is with her, just playing together, little duets on the violins,” Julia recalls fondly of her mother, Teresa Jones, a longtime violinist herself and former member of the Kiev National Orchestra. “I was six or seven years old. I was very bad. It was just so fun to play with her anyway. That was really inspiring for me, and I think I would not be at the level that I am right now if not for her. She has really taught me so much and given me so much knowledge.”
Julia’s accomplishments are many, but she feels her greatest took place last September in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk, where she competed in the Second International Viktor Tretiakov Violin Competition and made it to the semifinals.
This was the first significant international competitive event Julia attended, and she was one of the youngest people there.
“To be able to get all the way to the semifinals was a really proud moment for me,” Julia says. “I don't really even care about whether or not I got a prize. Just being able to move past rounds and being able to meet so many amazing people in that process was just really, really special.”
Most of Julia’s performances, especially competitive ones, are solo. But chamber music—string quartets in particular, the velvety harmony of two violins, a viola, and a cello—has a special place in Julia’s heart after she was exposed to it at the prestigious Perlman Music Program.
“My favorite composer is Beethoven,” Julia explains. “I love playing his chamber music, especially his string quartets. It's some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard. It really just opens my eyes to what music offers.”
Fight or flight? The battle against stage fright
It is normal for many musicians to memorize the sheet music for entire pieces of work, so Jones doesn’t have to worry about shuffling papers and turning pages while she plays. Some violinists close their eyes while playing, but Julia finds calm in being aware of her surroundings.
In the moments before a performance, calm is a must. Stage fright is not even an option.
“I've had an issue with stage fright before and controlling my nerves on stage, which is so detrimental to musicians because we work so much,” Julia says. “We basically work hours and hours to perform for 10 minutes or even less sometimes, and to have nerves ruin it, that is such a blow to your self-esteem.”
Even in the stress of competition—the blinding lights, stage fright, and palpable unblinking stares of judges and audience members—Julia is the image of serenity (always on the outside, at least, and most of the time on the inside, too). After a breath to focus, she begins to play, and the world falls dark as she guides her instrument through each character, dynamic, and phrase in the music.
“I really do have to be focused on what I sound like and how I feel because, again, it's the experience that really matters,” Julia explains. “It's not about the competition at all. So even when I'm performing at a competition, I just try to enjoy myself.”
Julia has a secret weapon for when the nerves are getting to her: if a performance has her particularly rattled, she’ll look into the crowd, find one person to perform to, and let all other faces go fuzzy.
And usually, that one person is Julia’s biggest fan: Mom.
“She’s there for all my performances,” Julia says. “So I’ll just think of her, she’ll be in my mind and I’ll direct the music to her.”
A nod to Laurel Springs
Before Julia found Laurel Springs, her school life was difficult to juggle. She transferred schools multiple times in her middle school and early high school years, searching for the right fit as her music career became more serious.
As her musical aspirations took her abroad, Julia needed an education option that wouldn’t penalize her with low participation grades while she traveled.
One thing that I really love about being at Laurel Springs is being able to set my own pace and make my own schedule,” Julia says, noting that when she travels for a masterclass she’s practicing eight hours a day. “When I'm traveling, I don't really do that much online work for Laurel Springs because I just need to be in the zone, especially if I'm at a competition or something. It’s very rigorous and I need to make an effort to become better and put all my knowledge into my craft.”
Her junior year AP language and composition teacher at Laurel Springs, Alec Talovich, had a special impact on Jones. He was a great communicator, she says, recalling one assignment where she was instructed to read “Zen in the Art of Writing” by Ray Bradbury and then write a letter to Bradbury in response to the book.
“I remember putting a lot of my heart into it,” Julia says. “And, the way he responded to my work inspired me to use writing as a form of self-expression just as music is to me. I thank him for that.”
Julia Jones, Violinist
How far can a girl get with her violin and unwaveringly tenacious spirit? Julia will soon find out. She is taking lessons learned in music far beyond the stage. She is thirsty for knowledge, soaking up all she can learn about her passions of music, film, writing, and fashion, and sees herself as a journalist of the arts, documenting artistic culture with her love of writing.
She’s come a long way since fumbling across the strings as a wide-eyed six-year-old playing with her mother.
“I think music, and the patience and work ethic that goes into it, has taught me a lot about how to work on myself, and how to be patient with my own work and how to really put myself out there,” Julia says. “Preparing for a performance is almost like embarrassing yourself. I will force myself into these performances knowing that it might not go well because of my nerves, but over time, it gets better. So I think that the work ethic of being a musician has taught me so much.”
Enjoy Julia's performances when you subscribe to her YouTube channel.
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