A 17-year-old from Prince George’s County recently received the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, which gives scholarships to “exceptional young musicians with financial need.”
“Toglietemi la vita ancor,
se mi volete rapir il cor,
toglietemi la vita ancor”
Preston Jones belted a classical song by Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti in his Suitland High School classroom.
The composition translates in English as:
You can even take away my life,
if you want to carry off my heart,
Take away my life.”
“I started singing at the age of two but getting classically trained here in my 9th-grade year,” Jones said. “Ever since then, my voice has grown.”
Jones, who sings baritone, comes from a family of singers and said that is where he got his inspiration.
He explained it is uncommon for young men in his predominately African-American neighborhood to be opera singers.
“Not many of us are into classical music. So, it is very rare,” Jones said.
Jones said he as faced challenges as a black student pursuing classical music.
“There were many eyes on me because they didn’t think that I belonged,” Jones described his experience attending a classical music program outside of his school environment. “It was very, very hard. Not hard. Very emotional.”
Jones said he ignored the feelings of being prejudged and began to sing.
“When I went on stage, all of their eyes opened. They all started to warm up to me and realize that I’m not what you think I am.”
Jones used that experience and others like it as a learning experience.
“I know that I have a passion. I know that I have a strive. I’m going to get through this regardless of who – regardless of color. We’re all the same,” he said.
According to his bio, Jones has performed with Maryland Lyric Opera, Prince George’s Philharmonic, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Additionally, Jones developed an interest in puppeteering, which he does as a hobby.
The thriving teenager posted videos on YouTube that show how he builds his puppets and develops their characters.