Meet Clara Jones, a beloved music teacher with 26 pianos (yes, 26)

Nov 19, 2009

It is a special person who can teach music to hundreds of children and quietly turn each of them into success stories. It is with a passion for music and a collection of many pianos that 80-year-old Clara Jones keeps doing just that. WFAE's Victoria Cherrie reports. Clara Jones is almost ready for work. She's dressed in a bright orange business suit and sifts through sheet music one more time before students arrive. She bustles through the maze of her old brick house that doubles as her piano studio. Suddenly, she stops. She sits at the shiny and black grand piano in the middle of a powder blue living room. Miss Jones then begins to move her long fingers along its ivory keys. She closes her eyes, arching her body to the ebb and flow of the music. "Music seems to come from the soul, and the more you do it, the longer you do it perhaps the more you feel. Perhaps the more you put yourself into what your doing," Jones sais. Jones has taught piano for 25 years here in her West Charlotte home off Beatties Ford Road. Hundreds of children have touched the keys of her many pianos, much like her teaching has touched them. "She has a way of giving every single child their individual time and you know making them walk away and feeling like, 'Wow, you know I am somebody special and I can do anything I put my mind to," says Kimberly Jones, who first met Miss Jones as a student 24 years ago. Few things have changed. The worn Baldwin piano she played when she was 10 is still here in the same pink room with sheet music stacked to the ceiling. Decades later, Miss Jones is still demanding discipline and attention to details from her students. And she's still buying pianos. In fact, she has 26. Yes, 26 pianos. "It's good to have a number of pianos because when a child may or may not have practiced adequately when you have the pianos there and he can go in to a room by himself and he can practice he learns so much more than if there is just one piano so I love teaching with a lot of pianos. "(So) of course we had to get 26 of them so that every child who came could stay here until he had mastered whatever he need to master before he left and her certainly left with a better understanding of it," says Miss Jones. She says this as three brothers - all working toward scholarships - practice separately in different rooms. Miss Jones has a keen ear and gets up periodically to give instruction. "If he knows his music, he stays an hour," she says. If he doesn't know his music he stays until Jesus comes." There are four pianos each in two front rooms where students play side by side. Two more sit back to back in a narrow hallway cluttered with books, boxes and photos of Jones' four children. The first piano Jones owned was a Baldwin. But she most fancies a grand. "A grand piano is different. It has such wonderful sound. It has a big sound, it has a small sound, it has a sound you can hold onto." She laughs as she recalls buying her first grand piano without telling her husband. "And the salesperson said, 'Miss Jones, what are you going to tell your husband when you get home?' I said, "I won't say a word I'll just bring the piano home, set it up and get him out of the house quickly." Miss Jones bought so many pianos over the years that her late husband Cedric added on to the house six times. In fact, he didn't bother removing a set of storm windows he had to build around during one of the last renovations. The two grand pianos, an organ and two keyboards sit in the blue living room with mirrored walls that is like a center stage. Sliding glass doors lead to the dining room that's home to two more pianos. The room is converted into a recital hall twice a year. Jones opened her home studio 25 years ago. Before then, she taught music in CMS for 30 years. But her daughter Ina says she always instilled the importance of music in her own four children. "On Saturdays, we would have rehearsals and my mother had a station wagon and she would go around picking up the neighborhood children, plus us, and we would all go off to church and practice." Kimberly Williams now teaches part time with Miss Jones. "She always continued to challenge us and wanted to make us play more," Williams says. But Miss Jones won't take any credit for and of her students' successes. Instead, she credits her many pianos. That's why she keeps buying them. She bought yet another a couple months ago. "I really don't have room for any more, so I guess I don't have to buy any more."

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