It’s a decision that’s paying literal dividends this summer for Jones, who has masterfully parlayed his commitment to staying in Texas and studying in Texas to, in fact, starring in “TEXAS.”
Jones, who in 2014 and 2015 studied vocal music at Amarillo College, landed a leading role in this summer’s production of the outdoor musical drama “TEXAS.” The professional production is staged on summer nights (except Mondays) at nearby Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
It is the first paid acting job for the 21-year-old thespian who graduated in 2014 from Amarillo High School. “I think it was our fourth day of rehearsals when I got my first paycheck and reality set in,” Jones said. “I called my dad and said, ‘wow, I’ve got to frame this.’”
In the musical “TEXAS,” Jones is cast as the romantic male lead – Calvin Armstrong – a brash, idealistic farmer who is central to the story of hearty pioneering families that settled the rugged plains of the Texas Panhandle.
Nothing prepared him more for the spotlight, he says, than his experiences at Amarillo College. He credits much of his success to participation in AC’s concert and jazz choirs. And he is especially grateful for having studied voice under world-renowned dramatic soprano Mary Jane Johnson, a professor at AC.
“Amarillo College was the perfect landing spot for me,” Jones said. “I got to study with Mary Jane Johnson, who I think is the best singing teacher in the nation, bar none. The concert and jazz choirs taught me how to handle difficult harmonies and work as part of a team, which definitely carries over to ‘TEXAS,’ where all of us have to work side by side.
“I put my whole being into the two years I spent at AC, and by doing that I got so much back out of it. I’m blessed and very lucky to have had such good mentors, and I’m thrilled and humbled to be playing Calvin Armstrong in Palo Duro Canyon. It just feels right,” he said, “the hometown boy telling the hometown story.”
Following two years of study at AC, Jones transferred his many credits to West Texas A&M University, where he will be a senior musical theatre major this fall. But he was on a pathway to the stage – and to AC – long before he ever contemplated higher education.
A self-described hyperactive kid, Jones says it was during the fourth grade when he set aside his beloved baseball glove, embraced greasepaint, and focused on a brand new infatuation – youth theatre, like the one offered at Amarillo College.
His talent and versatility swiftly caught the trained eye of Linda Hughes, the iconic director of AC’s Conservatory Theatre and the driving force behind the Amarillo Summer Youth Musical. Hughes has worn one such hat or the other while directing a formative Sean Evan Jones on numerous occasions over the years.
“It became obvious very early on at the Conservatory Theatre that Sean had something special,” Hughes said. “His work ethic is just beyond compare, and he has the talent to back it up."
“He has broadened his scope tremendously at Amarillo College, and at WT, too. Sean has just climbed and climbed. He was my Scarecrow in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ and my Bill Sikes in ‘Oliver!’ Oh my, yes,” she said, “he’s lead material.”
David Yirak, managing artistic director of “TEXAS” – now in its 52nd season as a Panhandle tradition – reached much the same conclusions as he watched Jones lithely audition for a part in the outdoor musical.
“What I saw was a very well-trained actor who had something I liked for the part of Calvin Armstrong,” said Yirak, who readily agrees that the youthful and slender Jones has little resemblance to some of the older, brawnier Calvins of years past. “I don’t think you want to spit out a carbon copy of Calvin Armstrong year after year,” Yirak said.
“What Sean brings to the role is himself. I like individuals who are willing to find their own way, and he certainly has. I saw a passion in him, something that told me he would be willing to work hard. I have not been disappointed in the least.”
Quite the contrary. The veteran director praised his entire cast and crew when he declared that this season’s opening-night performance was, in his view, the best opening night of the past dozen years.
“I was very flattered to be part of that,” said Jones. “I want this to be my profession and I feel like this whole experience is a step in the right direction."
“I’ll admit I was in limbo a couple of years ago,” he said. “I thought I had my life mapped out, possibly at a college in another state, but things changed and a door opened up at AC. I absolutely loved my two years there. Not only did all my music credits transfer, but the biology, math, and other basic courses I took at AC were fun, challenging, and prepared me just right for future college success.
“Going to AC was a phenomenal decision that I’m so glad I made.”
Success is the ever-popular outdoor musical drama “TEXAS,” featuring the incomparable AC product Sean Evan Jones. For ticket information, please visit www.texas-show.com.