Series honors ASU mentor

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- When T. Marshall Jones learned that Albany State University's Fine Arts Lyceum and Performing Arts Series was to be named in his honor, the 72-year-old pianist and arts enthusiast was shocked.

"When Dr. Bynum called and told me he was going to do that I was speechless, and I am still humble that this has happened," said Jones.

Leroy Bynum, dean of ASU's College of Arts and Humanities, said he could think of no one better to honor than Jones.

"We are celebrating a champion of the arts who happens to be one of our own," said the dean. "Dr. Jones has been an incredible mentor to me and was one of the reasons I first came to ASU."

Bynum said Jones has been a tireless advocate for the arts community in the area and was responsible for earning international recognition for ASU's Fine Arts Department.

"He loves music and performing and equally loves promoting other artists," said the dean.

Jones, a native of Michigan, said it was just a divine accident he ended up in the South and at Albany State.

"I said yes to a place I said I would never work at, which is the South," said the former ASU Department of Fine Arts chair. "There was a lot of turmoil at the time; it was during the 1960s, and I ended up where I said I would never work."

Jones said he grew to love the South and working with Albany State, but the first few years were challenging.

After Jones received his master's degree in music from the University of Michigan, he was working as a band director at Lapeer State Training School in Lapeer, Mich., when he was offered a job as director of bands at ASU in 1963.

"My first year I was only able to raise a 32-piece marching band when I had been accustomed to a 100-piece band," said the former band director. "I wanted the band to grow, so I went out and recruited band members like a football coach would. We were trying to recruit the best."

The next year, as a result of Jones' efforts, the band doubled in size. Without any scholarship funds, Jones said he relied on his personality and enthusiasm to convince students to choose Albany State.

In June 1972, Jones, while on a leave of absence from teaching, earned his doctor of music education degree from the Oklahoma School of Music.

Jones returned to Albany State and was named acting chair of the Music Department. In the mid-1980s the music department combined with art, speech and theatre departments to form the Department of Fine Arts, which Jones was asked to chair.

Jones said it was important to him at that time to make sure that the arts were promoted within the community.

"I was also chairman of the Lyceum Committee at Albany State University, and we just tried to recruit talented students and performers," he said. "During my third year as chair, I was lucky enough to make contact with Dr. Bynum."

The former ASU faculty member said he considers bringing Bynum to Albany State one of the greatest academic decisions he ever made.

When Jones retired in 1996 after 33 years of service, Bynum asked his mentor to return as an adjunct professor of music. After an additional 14 years of teaching part-time at the university, Jones retired again in May.

Jones, who also serves in the music ministry at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, said he looks forward to the performance series that has been named in his honor and added that it was important for the community to become involved.

"I am really looking forward to each and every one of them (Lyceum performances), and I am excited about the entire year," Jones said. "They (the arts) enhance the quality of life for all humankind. They really mean a lot to the community, and it is a well-thought-out series that Dr. Bynum and his committee have put together."