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UTA music lecturer performs at President Obama’s final White House concert

Thursday, October 27, 2016 • Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

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Jamar Jones, a jazz pianist, graduate student and lecturer of music industry studies at The University of Texas at Arlington, dreamed of performing at the White House as a young child in Philadelphia, and later, as an up-and-coming musician opening for artists such as Patti LaBelle.

Jamar Jones, jazz pianist, graduate student and lecturer of music industry studies at UTA.

Jones’ extraordinary talent and dedication to his craft paid off Friday, Oct. 21, when he got to perform in President Obama’s final concert at the White House. The event, titled “Love and Happiness: A Musical Experience,” will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, on the BET Networks.

Jones performed at the invitation of his childhood friend Adam Blackstone. Blackstone is the musical director for the BBE Allstars, of which Jones is a member. The ensemble has performed together for many nationally televised programs, including the NAACP Image Awards, Soul Train Awards and the MTV Video Awards.

For “Love and Happiness,” the BBE Allstars accompanied music greats such as Al Green, Jill Scott, Janelle Monáe, Common and Yolanda Adams.

Hip hop recording artist, actor, film producer and poet Common, left, with Jones, right, at the White House.

“This has been an incredible time for me both professionally and personally,” said Jones, who will graduate in May with a masters of music in performance (jazz) from UTA. He joined the staff as a lecturer in the music industry studies program this fall.

“I started playing the piano around the age of 4, grew up in church learning to play by ear before I could take formal lessons at 10,” Jones said.

“Most of what I learned came from the theme songs that I heard on television. To go from that to playing at the White House is truly a gift. In addition, I am honored to help design a curriculum appropriate for students who want to pursue careers in the current context of the entertainment industry.”

Dan Cavanagh, a jazz pianist, associate professor of music and director of UTA’s music industry studies program, congratulated Jones on the White House engagement and called him an invaluable addition to the Department of Music

“The experience that Jamar brings to our music program is incomparable,” Cavanagh said. “The faculty and students are able to have a truly rich exchange of culture and art because of Jamar’s active participation in the industry as a producer, composer and artist. He also brings depth to the program as a management consultant.”

Elisabeth Cawthon, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said Jones, his achievements, and the work of the Department of Music, are examples of what the arts can do to engage minds and develop sustainable urban communities, a tenet of the University’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

“Music, theater and other forms of art all play a critical role within everyday society,” Cawthon said. “We know, for example, that music and music education can transform the lives of children, bring together differing cultures, and even change the pace of a political or social campaign.”

Jones at the White House on the day of the concert taping.

UTA’s Department of Music has had several of its students, faculty and staff perform at other high-profile venues in recent years and with very distinguished musicians. In January, the A Cappella Choir joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s tribute to legendary composer George Gershwin. The choral group appeared with the Rolling Stones in concert at AT&T Stadium last summer.

The Department of Music also has welcomed Pulitzer Prize-winning musician and conductor Gunther Schuller, and Grammy Award-winning composer Michael Daugherty, as artists-in-residence.

A Night to Remember

As Jones looks ahead to the future, he said he will never forget his experience performing before President and Mrs. Obama. “I felt like a little kid whose dreams had come true,” he added. 

In greeting his guests, President Obama explained that over the past eight years, he and the first lady have honored and celebrated the music that has shaped America. He reminisced about having welcomed everyone from Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney to Aretha Franklin and Jennifer Hudson.

It’s no secret that Michelle and I love music and we’ve tried to share our passion with the rest of the country,” said Obama, who explained that much of the music of the evening – gospel, R&B, and rap – has roots in the African-American experience.

Courtesy YouTube

But he said that it’s not just black music, calling it an essential part of the American experience.

“It’s a mirror of who we are and a reminder of who we can be,” Obama said. “That’s what American music is all about and generations from now, I hope it’s the story that the White House will continue to tell.”

You can watch President Obama’s “Love and Happiness: A Musical Experience” welcome in this video posted to YouTube by the White House.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution of about 55,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at

For more on the UTA Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact, see