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Famous jazz musician teaching ‘the joy of music’ to LA

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By Tris DeRoma

World-renowned musician, author and entrepreneur Jon Barnes’ biography reads like a jazz song.

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He’ll start off with an idea, where he’ll then push, prod and rehearse it, do some more research, sometimes collaborating with others until he has something completely different and unique to give to the world.

Whether that’s a book, a composition or a new way to teach kids about music, Barnes enjoys every bit of the process.

He took his first steps into his career as a jazz trumpet player when he was eight years old. 

He remembers being in a room with family and passed a trumpet no one else could make a note come out of, and the rest is history. Ever since, he’s been playing his own unique song, a song he’s never stopped playing or innovating. For an indefinite time, Los Alamos County residents are welcome to join him.

He has come to Los Alamos by way of his many friendships and collaborations from his past. Barnes will be here for a little while, perhaps the whole summer, where he hopes to teach as many kids as he can about the joys of music and creating. So far, he’s jammed with the Los Alamos High School Jazz Band and the Middle School Band, and he also drops in on Mary Saunders’ classroom at the Little Forest Play School on Villa Street to teach kids a little about the trumpet and music.

“The young people, they are our future,” Barnes said. “If we don’t teach the kids how to get along and play on the playground and play music, who do we expect them to play as adult. Music is a catalyst, it gives them hope.” 

Adults too can get to experience Barnes and his music. Just off a tour in Europe, Barnes is being sponsored by friends at the First Baptist Church and is also playing regularly every Friday and Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Taos Trail Inn in Ojo Caliente. There, people can here acoustic jazz from the Jon Barnes Quartet, featuring Barnes on the trumpet. He also occasionally plays at the Pasta Paradiso on Trinity Drive.

He’s already been in Los Alamos, and he’s not sure when he’ll be leaving. 

“What happens is with all the activity and the interest, I can stay as long as I need,” Barnes said.

About that trumpet, Barnes picked a trumpet mostly made from carbon fiber when he was at the National Association of Music Merchants earlier this year. With a bell made of dark gray carbon fiber and the rest of the trumpet made of brass finish. It certainly has a unique look. According to Barnes, it plays just like a regular trumpet, accept it is lighter and easier to manage. 

“It’s effortless to play, it’s easier to play. Higher notes are easier to attain, and there’s better endurance,” Barnes said. 

Los Alamos residents would be happy to learn that the trumpet has more science than usual in it. Materials scientist Andreas Keller created it. Barnes struck up a conversation with Keller at the National Association of Music Merchants, where Keller was promoting his carbon fiber instruments. Keller has been using the daCarbo trumpet ever since promoting it and using it in his concerts. 

Barnes like to play all types of music. He is currently working with Earth Wind and Fire, has played with Billy Preston, Smokey Robinson and a whole lot of other

Barnes recently wrote a book that grew out of another idea of his, how to impart wisdom to his children without being too heavy. Called the “The Book of Matthew” Barnes  brings out certain concepts and ideas contained in scripture and shows readers how those ideas and concepts can be applied to their lives. 

Like the music he makes, Barnes hopes his words will inspire too.

“I think it’s an ethical obligation to give back to the community,” Barnes said. “We have to stand up for values. We don’t want kids shooting places up. We have to show them love early.”