“Initially, I just wanted to be a rock star.” Jonathan Edens said smiling, as he easily works the strings up and down his guitar. “It probably starts that way for most folks, I guess, but the more I played guitar, the more I began liking the artistry of it. Music became more than an ego trip. It became part of who I am.”
Edens, an accomplished musician who serves as a community member and mentor with the Tusculum College Jazz Band, is a native of Greenville, and comes from a family with a long history in the area.
“Everyone in my family is known for something,” he said and talks about his grandfather, Marion C. Edens, who was at different points the head football coach, basketball coach, athletic director, and director of admissions for Tusculum College.
“My grandfather also restored log cabins after he retired, one of which I own. It’s next door to my house, which is also a house my grandfather built.”
He goes on to share about his grandmother. She was a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. A weaver and a painter, she had a piece of linsey-woolsey exhibited in The Smithsonian. His mother learned the craft as well and is also a weaver.
“They were artists but didn’t call themselves that. They went about their lives creating. I feel like I am the same way. When I found music, I realized that is how maybe I would create.”
While he focuses on his music and carves out his own field of expertise and experience, Edens is also careful to learn and carry on the crafts of those who came before him.
“Tradition is important to me. Very much. I think it is an important responsibility to carry on tradition. My mom knows how to weave.
“I’m trying to get her to give me some lessons on weaving. I think we each have a skill and with that an opportunity to share that knowledge with someone else. I think that’s why I finally decided to start teaching. What is meant to do with all of this knowledge one has accrued if not to pass it on?”
He then thoughtfully plays a jazz rendition of Autumn Leaves.
“As a guitarist, I really struggled with jazz. This was the song that made me realize that I could become proficient at the art form if I could learn and master Autumn Leaves,” he said.
Edens explained that while he played with ease other forms on the guitar, he found his challenge in jazz. “Jazz is a horn player’s idiom, or piano player’s, but with guitar, the pedagogy is the least developed. The placement in context with other instruments is not as well established. Which I think is one reason guitar took off with other forms of music, like bluegrass, country, and rock. It didn’t have to compete with other instruments.”
He goes on to explain that almost all horns are tuned differently, so a majority of jazz standards are in a key not familiar to most guitar players.
“Reading music, and reading music in a different key than I ever played, that was frustrating. But after working, and finally getting down Autumn Leaves, the door opened to a new world of playing music. I became more comfortable with the hard keys because now I knew I could do it.”
He smiled again and played the last measure of the song.
“Whether you are a beginner learning something new, or a proficient player, learning a new way of doing something, getting past that learning curve opens up those new worlds,” he said. “Discovering the excitement of that is something I love to teach.”
Jonathan Edens will be opening new doors to music this fall as he joins the McKinney Center faculty as a guitar teacher. He will be offering beginner guitar classes for both children and adults and will offer daytime and evening classes to accommodate most schedules.
For information about this class or other classes at the McKinney Center, contact McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons at [email protected] or by calling (423) 753-0562.
To see all classes, download the online catalog at this link: http://www.jonesboroughtn.org/images/MBM_Fall_2017_071017R.pdf.