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Daily Inspiration: Meet Michelle Jones

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Jones.

Hi Michelle, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My official online biography begins, “Michelle Jones is an instrumentalist, composer, recording artist (including on several albums that have been nominated and/or won GRAMMY® awards), educator, GRAMMYU mentor, and producer/host of “Note-Worthy with Michelle Jones” (tv talk show). Scores of stringed instruments come alive in her talented hands when performing on international stages as bandleader to the string ensemble Violectric: Classic Musicians Who Rock®. Audiences are electrified time and time again by her versatility of style and custom arrangements ranging from classical to heavy metal to rock ’n’ roll. She plays a variety of violins and violas to achieve these styles and performs regularly on some of the world’s greatest stages.”

Yes, all of it is true. I still prefer to think of myself as a very blessed person who gets to do what I love every single day as my career and my life. Even through a worldwide lockdown, I was able to focus my energies on creating new music, performances, shows and educational tools.

I began playing violin and piano at the age of three, a student of my mother, Gayle Wade. After several years (and when my mother became a single parent having to work three jobs to keep a roof over our head and food in our pantry), I then continued my musical studies on full scholarship at Converse College Pre-College Department of Music and Dance in Spartanburg, SC. After graduating from high school, I attended Converse College on full scholarship and became an adjunct professor at the same Pre-College Department. I later graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL with degrees in business and management. My passions have always been a mix of performing and teaching; those same passions drive my career and philanthropy today.

I love to travel! I split my time between Central Florida and Las Vegas, with lots of shows around the world in between. Until March 2020, I was recording, touring and performing as a special guest with Wayne Newton. We cannot wait to return to the stage in Las Vegas in late 2021! With my band, Violectric, we performed as featured entertainment for Tim Burton and The Neon Museum’s Boneyard Ball in Las Vegas, alongside The Killers and Clint Holmes with his band in October 2019. I had the privilege of arranging, recording and performing a special medley with Violectric for this event for Burton, to which he is quoted as saying, “You wrote that just for me? It was absolutely beautiful! Thank you!” Also in 2018, I recorded with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Jon Anderson (lead singer from YES) on his newest album, “1000 Hands.” It has been an honor to record alongside many GRAMMY® award-winning and nominated musicians, including Chick Corea, Robby Steinhardt (Kansas), Jean-Luc Ponty, Pat Travers, Jonathan Cain (Journey), Tower of Power, Michael Winslow, and others. In June 2018, I performed a solo sold-out show in Las Vegas at the Neon Museum’s NE10 Studio and helped raise over $186,000 for the restoration of the Hard Rock Café Neon Guitar Sign. I then performed with Violectric for the lighting party at Las Vegas’ Neon Museum in March 2019, an event covered by international news media around the globe. In May 2017, I toured five of my favorite cities in Japan on a sold-out solo tour. I’m also a regular special guest and panelist at Comic-Con and national conventions, particularly for music and film scoring.

I am the President and Band Leader of Violectric, Inc., a string ensemble with live percussion that plays exclusive arrangements of classic and modern rock music on our exclusive Violuminescence LED electric instruments with LaserBows. My wonderful husband, Jerry, invented these LED instruments and LaserBows, and they are the only ones of their kind in the world. Violectric performs compositions from AC/DC to Metallica to Led Zeppelin and has appeared, recorded and toured around the world with most every major name act in the business from opera to heavy metal. Violectric is an Official SiriusXM Radio Artist (our music is programmed and heard every day), an iHeart Radio Artist, and is with Viacom networks. We have opened for acts including John Legend, Josh Groban, SIA, Twenty-One Pilots, Sting, Adam Levine, David Foster, Huey Lewis and the News, Kristin Chenoweth, Katharine McPhee, Kool and the Gang, and Rascal Flatts. We were also selected as the first Artists in Residence for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Florida, including live concerts and educational workshops with the Dr. Phillips Center Advent Health School of Art and Wellness.

Another project of mine is “Note-Worthy with Michelle Jones,” a talk show dedicated to one artist/act per show that airs on several networks and streaming services. Recorded in a live format, I host an in-depth discussion and conversation with each guest, uninterrupted for approximately 15 minutes, followed by a special short performance or video featuring that guest. During the discussion, guests are encouraged to share their passions for life and overall well-being in their lives. Guests featured in the pilot season include GRAMMY® Award Winners, Music Directors and Artistic Directors from celebrity touring and stage acts, award-winning performing artists, best-selling authors, and a variety of professionals in the entertainment industry (managers, publicists, agents, etc.) The focus is not only on the people the audience see/hear in a show but also on each of the roles that make a show possible. Everyone has a passion in life; many are blessed to be able to make their passions their careers. This show is dedicated to their “Note-Worthy” stories.

I am also a composer and have scored and recorded music for several short films and full-length documentary films and television and radio commercials that have aired nationally and internationally. It was a pleasure to work with acclaimed film producer Robin Cowie (The Blair Witch Project and others) to compose and record the music with Violectric for Sea World Parks’ and Busch Gardens’ “Howl-O-Scream” event held nationally at several locations. The multiple compositions were included in all of the theme parks, advertisements, and short films related to the event. As a recording artist, I have composed and/or recorded on many albums, soundtracks for television and films, advertisements, and video games internationally.

I have performed professionally with numerous artists and symphony orchestras, including the world-renowned Mantovani Orchestra. As Principal Violin with the Mantovani Orchestra, we have performed multiple tours of Asia to sold-out audiences in prestigious venues, including The People’s Hall of Congress in Beijing, China. I am a featured rock violin soloist who performs regularly with orchestras, including Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Brevard Symphony Orchestra, Encore Performing Arts, and Florida Pops Orchestra. Fans have graciously given me the moniker “Vinylinist” and the hashtag “#FirstLadyOfRockViolin.” I am also a Section Violin and Viola with the Walt Disney World Orchestra. I have served as either Concertmaster or Associate Concertmaster, or section violin/viola with several other touring Broadway musical productions over the past two decades. It was an honor to be the Concertmaster of Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe Orchestra from 2000-2010. As a solo violinist and ensemble leader for Disney’s Fairytale Weddings and Honeymoons, I get to be a part of the magic of the happiest moments in life.

My style is not limited to classical as I also arrange and perform violin, viola, 5-string, vocals, percussion and keyboard with the international touring group Classic Albums Live based in Toronto, Ontario. With Classic Albums Live, I performed in Toronto’s world-famous Massey Hall and many other renowned concert halls. I am versatile with genres from classic rock to pop, from punk to heavy metal. Music includes albums by artists: The Beatles, The Eagles, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, U2 and others.

A touring bug, I love to perform and tour internationally with artists and have performed shows with Mannheim Steamroller, Page and Plant (Led Zeppelin), Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Josh Groban, Fernando Varela, Michael Bolton, Peter Cetera and Chicago, Dennis DeYoung and Styx, The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds, Smokey Robinson, Beyonce and Destiny’s Child, Anne Murray, Bernadette Peters, Sarah Brightman, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, and many others.

Through Violectric, I created and established an Educational Programs Series with interactive workshops and live concerts with students, and we have performed multiple concerts at schools and universities across the USA and at the Shekou International School in China. One of my proudest affiliations is as an active voting member of The Recording Academy (GRAMMY®s) and as an official mentor with GRAMMY U (education division of The Recording Academy). It’s a pleasure to also be a member of Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM), and Central Florida Musicians’ Association (CFMA). Violectric Education Programs have been featured on local and national television broadcasts (including PBS), and the members have been recognized for our philanthropy and commitment to education. My personal dedication to philanthropy has earned me four President’s Volunteer Service Awards (gold and bronze) from Presidents Obama and Trump in recent years for my many hours of volunteerism in the Central Florida Community and beyond. I had to rely on the generosity of others while growing up; now, I am blessed to be able to help others pursue their dreams of education.

As an active member of the American Federation of Musicians, I have had the privilege to serve as an international delegate for 13 years and on the International Diversity Committee, Youth Diversity Committee (chair), International Musician Committee and the Good and Welfare Committee. I am also an active member of the Central Florida Musicians’ Association where I have served on the Recording Committee, Diversity Committee and Executive Board.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
As with most musicians, the biggest obstacles are getting your music or brand “out there,” along with a need for money to pay for proper marketing, equipment, instruments, etc. I worked “day jobs” for many years to save money to finally make music my career full-time over 20 years ago. Even with a day job, I took unpaid vacation days to tour with well-known bands where I was a section player that barely made enough to pay for food that week. Contrary to what most people think, promoters do not treat the pickup musicians well and oftentimes do not even provide meals. As grown adults, we were on retired school buses traveling state to state, doing laundry backstage in the sinks of the restrooms, and hoping it was dry enough to pack again when we got off stage. We slept 4 to a cheap motel room, were only provided with pizza or a cold sandwich at the venue between soundcheck and show, and we’re only paid for days when there were shows.

All other meals and dates, we were on our own. Payment came many weeks or months after the tour was over. I did this for over ten years; it was what I had to do to build my resume. I also learned a great deal of knowledge by observing from these horrendous tours. I learned how to treat everyone with kindness, no matter their role or seniority. I learned that if you didn’t complain and went above and beyond your assigned role, you would likely be noticed and possibly later compensated or promoted accordingly. I also learned to not work for certain contractors/promoters who always expected something in return (the casting couch is real). Some promoters were ethical, but they were the rare ones. I still find myself facing these same challenges today; I just hope I have learned enough to work around them.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
My advice to all readers: find your passion, and learn everything there is to learn about it. Find mentors who are willing to share their knowledge with you, and LISTEN. Take business and marketing classes to learn how to manage your own career. Take courses in web design and social media to know what is involved in having a solid online presence. Degrees mean nothing if you didn’t do the work and learn from the classes. A full commitment to knowledge and constant learning are the keys to success in any endeavor. Most importantly, take time to build your relationships along the way. The true human connections and how we spend our time together are our most valued commodity.

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Image Credits

Jerry Jones, Dean Ray, Rose Ray, Eva Krzewinski

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