“You gotta go after the things you want while you’re still in your prime.”
That famous line from the hit Broadway musical “Avenue Q” is an inspiration for young performers working to fulfill their dreams. UAB senior Nole Jones, 21, of Prattville, is working on fulfilling his.
Jones will graduate on April 30, and he is reaching for the stars. After having completed dual undergraduate degrees in music and theater from the College of Arts and Sciences, with honors from the UAB Honors College’s Experiential Learning Honors Program and the Department of Music’s Young Performing Artist Program, Jones is heading to one of the country’s strongest graduate programs in music, says one of his primary teachers, Associate Professor of Voice Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk, DMA.
Jones won a fellowship to attend the University of Illinois this fall in the Master of Music program. The fellowship includes full tuition and health benefits, as well as a stipend.
“Over the years, Nole has grown tremendously both as a performer and as a mentor to younger students,” Hurst-Wajszczuk said. “As his facility with language and expressiveness grew, so did his capacity in leadership. The younger students look to him for guidance and inspiration, which he provided in dual measure — and always with a sense of graciousness and humility. While Nole has the requisite thick skin needed for the life of a performer, it has never come at the expense of his generous and kind spirit. It has been a joy to watch him mature. We are so happy for his success and very proud of him.”
Jones has sung numerous roles with UAB Opera, including Belcore in “The Elixir of Love,” Simone in Mozart’s “La finta semplice” and Cascada in “The Merry Widow.” His appearances with Theatre UAB include roles in the department’s cabaret touring production, “Cinemagic,” and in mainstage productions as Robby the Stockfish in “Urinetown” and Brian in the 2015 production of “Avenue Q.”
Besides his work onstage, Jones works behind the scenes as well and just served as the assistant music director for “Spring Awakening.” He received no academic credits for this time-intensive commitment but wanted to be involved and have the opportunity to work “behind the piano” during his last semester at UAB.
His consistently high GPA has qualified him for the dean’s list as well as presidential honors almost every semester during his time at UAB, says Valerie Accetta, MFA, UAB’s Head of Musical Theatre in the Department of Theatre.
“In addition to his strong academic work, Nole showed a real curiosity about the vocal mechanism. His growth in the understanding of his own instrument and its anatomy was remarkable. I am thrilled that this desire to learn has prompted him to apply for highly competitive masters programs in vocal pedagogy.”
Jones was part of the Music Honors Program. He presented a stellar Young Performing Artist recital in March, for which he was required to write the program notes himself.
“His writing was by far the best I have seen from an undergraduate in recent years,” Hurst-Wajszczuk said.
Jones was president of the Student National Association of Teachers of Singing at UAB. The association is a co-curricular student organization that brings professionals in the field to supplement the course offerings at UAB. Through its own funding and with the assistance of the Undergraduate Student Government Association, the group at UAB brings an average of six clinicians per year to the Department of Music. Jones provided vital leadership to the organization.
For the past three summer seasons, Jones has performed as a member of the Lake Junaluska Singers, a professional touring choir based in North Carolina. With this group, he toured the southeastern United States as an ensemble member and featured soloist, performing more than 200 concerts and recording two albums.
Jones placed first this year in both the Classical and Musical Theater categories at the Alabama National Association of Teachers of Singing Student Auditions. He placed first in the musical theater category last year at both the Alabama and Southeastern Regional NATS auditions. He was sent on to the National Student Auditions in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he placed among the top 14 male competitors in the entire country — a major honor, as hundreds of students compete in this event every year. He also earned second place in the classical category at both the Alabama and Southeastern Regional auditions.
This summer, Jones will perform as a resident artist at the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, a professional opera company in Logan, Utah. He will appear in “Ragtime,” “Show Boat,” “Porgy and Bess” and Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi.” In the fall, he will begin graduate school as a Graduate Fellow at the University of Illinois School of Music, pursuing his Master of Music degree in voice performance and literature.
In addition to being an actor and singer, Jones is a stellar all-around musician and has become the go-to tutor for musical theater majors who struggle with the music theory courses, Accetta says.
“He is patient and a strong communicator, and he helps the students approach the potentially difficult concepts with a sense of humor and ease,” she said. “I was also wonderfully surprised when I was a judge for the Fight Song competition during Homecoming Week this past fall. Nole, who I associate with a classical music background, was the electric guitar player for his fraternity’s performance and really rocked out. His fraternity tied for first place in the competition.
“I think it is rare for such a highly intelligent and hardworking individual to so easily relate to people from different backgrounds and be so well-liked and respected,” Accetta said. “We wish Nole every success and can’t wait to see the heights he’ll reach.”