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October 18, 2021

Alumna Joela Jones Receives Cleveland Orchestra’s Distinguished Service Award


Joela Jones

Cleveland Institute of Music esteemed alumna Joela Jones (BM ’66, MM ’67), principal keyboard of The Cleveland Orchestra, received the Orchestra’s Distinguished Service Award on October 14, 2021. She retires after 54 seasons, making her the longest-serving principal player of any section in the Orchestra’s history.

Born in Florida, Jones was encouraged to pursue many interests – including figure skating and baton twirling – but music was always her first love. She was declared a prodigy at age 10, and in high school, she moved with her mother to Rochester, NY, to study at Eastman School of Music. She studied with legendary pianists Arthur Loesser and Victor Babin at CIM, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Jones has been a valued member of CIM’s faculty since 1993, and was recognized in 2006 with the school’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

“As a young pianist, Joela followed her dreams,” said CIM’s Executive Vice President & Provost Scott Harrison, “touring as a soloist before choosing Cleveland in the 1960s – drawn to CIM’s distinguished faculty and supportive learning environment, a vibrant and varied cultural community, and a career with America’s finest orchestra. While she spoke on Thursday night at Severance Music Center about all that the Cleveland community has given her over those 50-plus years, Cleveland has undoubtedly been made richer by Joela’s musical gifts. We are indeed fortunate to count Joela among CIM’s most distinguished alumni and faculty.”

“Joela’s contributions and impact after more than a half-century of service are immense,” said Mark Williams (BM ’02, King), chief artistic and operations officer of The Cleveland Orchestra. “Her versatility, musicality, and artistry – not just on piano, but also on organ, celesta, synthesizer and her beloved accordion – have been demonstrated time and time again as part of the ensemble and as a keyboard soloist. She enthusiastically devoted herself to playing hundreds of performances of prominent and challenging music from across the orchestral repertoire, as well as participating in countless education programs and ably performing many chamber music pieces with colleagues.”

Meet Joela Jones in a new short film, and read more in The Cleveland Orchestra’s Spotlight Magazine.

Photo by Hilary Bovay, courtesy of The Cleveland Orchestra.