For 25 years, Jones has played in summer concerts

Chad Frey
The Kansan

James Jones remembers the first-ever summer summer concert of the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra — at the time it was part of a festival, called the Harvey Festival. 

James Jones, clarinet, left and Zachary Hague, bassoon, right, perform at Dyck Arboretum as part of the Newton Mid Kansas Symphony Orchestra summer concert series in 2006.

"I got the idea from the railroad restaurant and the name of the county and the Judy Garland Movie [The Harvey Girls, 1946]," Jones said. 

It was started by Jones and Don Kerhberg, former music professor at Bethel College as something fun to do in the summer. 

"There was also a need for some summer music, it worked out very well," Jones said. "... I have had a lot of fun. I have played them all on clarinet. I have played all of them, and I got to play what I wanted."

That first festival and concert was at the Warkentine House.

Now a summer concert, rather than a festival, will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Summer Chamber Music series, which was cancelled last season during the pandemic, at 3 p.m.  concert takes place June 6 inside Grace Hill Mennonite Church in Whitewater.

Early concerts of classical and parlor music were held in the Historic Warkentin House. Through the years, concerts have been in various locations in the Newton area, with music from chamber instrumental works to opera and barbershop quartet. Musicians from Newton and Wichita have been featured, as well as special guest artists from around the country with ties to the area.

Jones, emeritus clarinet professor of Wichita State University, former Wichita Symphony Orchestra principal clarinetist, and founder of the Wichita Clarinet Society, continues as the artistic director of the summer music series.

James Jones helped launch the summer concert series by Newton Mid Kansas Symphony Orchestra 25 years ago, and has played in every summer chamber concert since.

Jones keeps coming back to the summer concert, despite the changes and new locations over the years. Kerhberg has retired from Bethel and moved away, but Jones keeps bringing his clarinet each summer — for chamber music, and the occasional jazz concert that has been part of the summer series. 

"I'm still playing and it is a challenge," Jones said. 

This year he will get the opportunity to play with one of his former students, a chance he relishes. He will also relish in the chance to play as part of a trio with his son, Timothy Jones of Laramie, Wyoming, and Karen Schlabaugh of Newton. James Jones and his son Timothy, a cellist, played together in one of the inaugural concerts in 1994. 

This year they will perform Felix Mendelssohn’s “Concertpiece No. 2,” originally scored for clarinet and basset horn. The father-son duo will also play original compositions by Timothy and his mother Gay Jones.

"He has not had a chance to perform with me in Newton, and we are doing a Mendealson trio with Karen Schlabaugh," James Jones said.

Timothy Jones, a cellist, music educator, and writer, grew up in Wichita, KS. A graduate of Indiana University, he served as assistant principal cellist of the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra in Minnesota and worked in symphony orchestra management and as orchestra director at Morton Ranch Junior High School in Katy, Texas. Tim currently is assistant orchestra director for the Albany County School District in Laramie and instructor at the String Academy of Wyoming, and performs with the Wyoming and Cheyenne Symphony Orchestras.

Zachary Hague, instructor of bassoon at Wichita State University and adjunct instructor of bassoon at Bethel College, serves as Second Bassoonist with the Wichita Symphony. He performs locally in the Lieurance Woodwind Quintet, Bethany Oratorio Orchestra, Hutchinson Symphony Orchestra, and the Wichita Grand Opera. He has performed internationally in Japan and China, recorded for the Summit Records label, and has performed on televised broadcasts by Louisiana Public Broadcasting on PBS.

The NMKSO Board of directors will host an outdoor dessert reception after the concert. Tickets: adults $15 at the door/$13 advance, students $7/6, available at Faith and Life Bookstore or online at nmkso.org. For information call (316) 772-3265 or visit www.nmkso.or