Jones: 'Thank you and farewell'
At the age of 14, he was the youngest student to be accepted into the University of Kentucky's School of Music. He played the piano at a White House Christmas show in 2006. He's a Versailles native whose love of music also led to him to a career as a certified dance instructor. Now, Aaron Jones is preparing to leave the community where he's spent virtually all of his 31 years - and he'll begin a series of musical "farewell and thank you" performances Sunday at 7 p.m. at First Christian Church of Versailles. "I've actually kind of been off the radar. I've been pursuing a dance career for the last five years and I've done regular gigs at the governor's mansion and a regular Christmas concert, but that's it. So I'm actually kind of picking piano back up as a part of the move," Jones said. Jones spoke with The Sun while house-hunting in Boca Raton, Fla., where he'll move in May for a promotion with Arthur Murray Dance Studios. The move also gives him easier access to other musical opportunities in the much larger Miami and Ft. Lauderdale markets. The First Christian Church show will last an hour and feature classical, jazz, popular and hymns. "It's a farewell concert, so I'll be playing all my favorite music," Jones said. "Whenever I do a show, I want to make sure that there's always something that everybody can enjoy. It's not just my way of saying goodbye, but my way of saying thank you to Versailles ." Jones was raised by his mother and grandparents, and said he never knew his father. "Any time a kid does not know their father personally, there's sort of a feeling of not belonging somewhere. In spite of that, I feel like the people of Versailles always took me in as family, and made me feel so welcome and so part of their world." Jones said. Despite his immersion in the world of dance, Jones never gave up tinkling the ivories. Last December, he gave a Christmas concert at Forest Grove Christian Church in Winchester, where he once served as church pianist, and his farewell tour will include an April 24 show there. (Jones was also pianist at First Christian Church of Versailles for several years.) "He's an incredible pianist . and a very friendly, solid kind of guy," said Forest Grove Pastor Larry Deckard. Jones was raised on a Woodford County tobacco farm, and grew up listening to church hymns and Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe. After graduating from UK with a bachelor's degree in piano performance, he's performed at venues ranging from restaurants to churches and, oh yes, the White House. After the Christmas show in the White House East Room, he met then-President George W. Bush. "He walked over and he said, 'Oh, I thought that was a player piano, but I guess I was wrong," Jones said. "I laughed. I was very obsequious about it - you laugh when the president makes a joke." On Mother's Day, Jones will play at Addie's during brunch. He'll leave for Florida shortly after a May 14 Arthur Murray benefit for the Lexington Rotary Club, where he'll dance with former UK women's basketball star Leslie Nichols. "She's a really nice lady, and she's very tall, and I'm very tall, so it's a good pairing," Jones said. He admits to mixed feelings about leaving Versailles. "I will miss it bitterly. People who are from Kentucky are the only people who understand exactly what Kentucky means to a Kentuckian. It's something that you carry with you, I do believe that," Jones said. "I would not be the man I am today, nor would I be the musician I am today, were it not for the strong Kentucky influences of my roots. "The comfort that I have is knowing that in my art, I am taking with me all of the assimilated pieces of the Bluegrass that I've gathered over the years."