Love for the harp serves as foundation of family's flourishing musical talent

Unaware that there were elevators in the Marriott Center at BYU, Robert W. Jones in 1978 carried Sandy Pratt's harp from the center's floor up more than 30 rows to the concourse level.

Because of that, Sandy knew there was something special about Robert, and the harp has played an important role in their lives ever since.Sandy, who was raised in a musical environment, had played the harp as part of a multi-stake fireside program in the Marriott Center that night. She was dating Robert at the time he made that special sacrifice of carrying the harp.

They were married May 26, 1979, in the Salt Lake Temple, and now Brother Jones is an ophthalmologist and Sister Jones is at home with their eight children. Those children are being raised on the harp and Brother Jones continues to sacrifice, transporting harps around for various performances.

The Jones family was named the "Most Musical Family of 1993" by the Missouri Federation of Music Clubs. The family was invited to perform in May at the federation's awards ceremony in Springfield, Mo., honoring the Missouri and national officers of the music clubs.

One of the family's highlights this year was participating in the opening program of the Juanita K. Hammons Performing Arts Center in Springfield, Mo.

The harp helped Brother Jones get through Washington University Medical School in St. Louis after Brother and Sister Jones were married. Sister Jones occasionally played the harp (and also the cello) at weddings and other events to earn part of their income, and Robert found constructing and selling harps to be profitable.

Sister Jones' parents, Samuel and Rosalie Pratt, played an important role in the development of the harp and its literature. In the 1950s, Brother Pratt built the first student harp, a non-pedal harp called the Troubadour.

When the Troubadour came out, it gave harp playing a boost by making the instrument economically accessible to beginning students, Sister Jones said. "People were able to afford them. The Troubadour opened up the market for harpists and the harp is really coming into its own now."

Brother Pratt went on to develop the Dauphine Harp, a later model of the non-pedal student harp. He was also a prominent composer of music for the instrument.

Sister Jones grew up in the New York City metropolitan area in a family consumed by music. Her father managed the Lyon and Healy Harp Salon in New York City and later had his own harp manufacturing company. Her mother performed frequently in prominent events such as the "Mostly Mozart Festival" in New York's Lincoln Center and also taught harp performance.

Beginning at age 3, Sandy performed on the radio, television, in the Carnegie Recital Hall and at a private party for Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of President John F. Kennedy.

"Instead of playing baseball in the backyard, we played instruments," Sister Jones said of herself, her sister and her parents. "That was our recreation. All of us have received some recognition on the harp."

Although accomplished on the harp, Sister Jones majored in cello performance at BYU.

Brother Jones, a talented woodworker, picked up the skill of harp-building from his father-in-law. He became proficient enough to use the skill to support his family while finishing medical school.

While the Jones children have followed their mother's lead in music, their lives are not one dimensional, she said. They have their father to thank for that.

"My husband grew up in Wyoming and has a fiendish desire to be in the outdoors," Sister Jones said. "He loves sports and is still very active in basketball. My kids play every sport you can imagine and every year they go to Wyoming to backpack and hike.

"Its a compromise of two different lifestyles."

Brother Jones said: "I've always been interested in art and music. I sang in choirs during high school and took private voice lessons at BYU. Sandy hadn't had much of an athletic background, but her musical and artistic interests weren't unfamiliar to me."

Brother Jones now performs eye surgery and treats diseases of the eye in his practice in West Plains, Mo., located 100 miles southeast of Springfield.

"He's the only ophthalmologist in the area, so he does a lot of surgery," Sister Jones said. "Once, a farmer had a horse with an eye injury and Bob went out and helped the horse. The people here know that he'll help. He is the epitome of a caring individual."

Brother Jones is the Scoutmaster in the West Plains Ward, Springfield Missouri Stake, and Sister Jones is ward music chairman.

Their children are: Robert, 13; Joseph, 11; Stephanie, 9; Julia, 8; Anthony, 5; Richard, 4; Louis, 1; and Mary, born Oct. 23, 1993. The children begin their musical training on the harp, but the six older children play at least two instruments, plus the piano.

The children perform in nursing homes, schools and churches in the area. Two of them have callings in their ward; Joseph is the Primary pianist and Robert is the pianist in priesthood meeting.

"The experience has helped our children learn that music is a very good way to serve," Sister Jones said.

"One way my husband helps is to have the younger children sit on his lap, and he points at the strings when it is their turn to play," she said.

And he is still carrying harps around.

Brother Jones said: "It's most important we expose the children to quality in everything they do. Rather than just stand around a soccer field, they get good soccer training. Instead of just playing a musical instrument, they get good music training.

"Kids need to be kids, but it's good that they get exposure to different things to help them decide what they really want to do. They're confident in our love for them. As long as they are really happy, that's all that counts." - Greg Hill

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