Often depicted as beautiful and grandiose, the harp is a musical instrument people often associate with angelic figures and orchestral performances. While the harp does hold on to the aforementioned associations, one minister/musician is using its strings to make an impact and music that is all his own.

Dr. Ted Jones, a Middle Tennessee musician, has made a second career for himself as a harpist with a dedication to spiritual stimulation for members of the LGBT community.

A former theatre professor at Austin Peay State University, Jones is now working to strengthen the connection between spirituality and his community.

Jones admits that he had always been attracted to the harp since he was a child but never actually gave playing a try until he was well into adulthood.

Supported by his own formal musical education, Jones elected to begin taking harp lessons from a Julliard-trained professional, but soon became disinterested in learning formal methods. While never losing an interest in the instrument itself, he opted to stop his lessons and let the strings fall silent for a while.

He later rediscovered his love of the harp while on a gay men’s spiritual retreat.

“I’m happiest when I can play where there is an overt or implied spiritual (component) in a gay setting,” Jones said. “Because of their wounding, many gay people have been in the closet regarding their spirituality, and my goal is to use what I do to reconnect and heal the two.”

He then played for the men in attendance and was able to allow his fingers to bring an original and inspirational expression from within.

Following his debut performance at the retreat, Jones was refreshed with the desire to play the instrument that had long ago sparked his attention. He was even able to connect with an organization that allowed for an opportunity to explore the existing spirituality in his music. Over the last 10 years he has worked with a group called Gay Spirit Visions that is dedicated to promoting spirituality within the gay community.

Since then, he has taken this form of expression to many different venues. With a varied and extensive collection of harps, he has brought his musical message to funerals, weddings, commitment ceremonies, yoga classes, hand-fastings and even for people under hospice care.

“I’m a recovering trained musician,” Jones said. “Until I began playing the harp, I had never improvised music. I had also never composed my own nor played by ear.

“In playing the harp, I’ve learned to play from an improvisatory and intuitive place for the occasions I’m called to work in.”

More recently, Jones has been ordained as a non-denominational minister and is now the organizer of a project that will give his talent as a harpist more opportunity to impact not only the gay community but the middle Tennessee area and beyond.

“I am combining my harp skills with an ability to perform various kinds of ceremonies into a service I call ‘A Celebration with Harps,’" Jones said. “You get both music and service in one. After working with LGBT groups and individuals only playing harp for the last 10 years, I am now packaging my harp options in a more specific way—one I hope will be attractive and viable to our community.”

With launch of his website and continued opportunities to share his music, Jones is still in full support of people following their own hearts when it comes to making music that is true to them.

“If there is an instrument you are drawn to, don’t let anyone limit you,” Jones said. “Learn the basics but take the time to really see where you can take it personally for yourself. You do have to explore it to find your own music.”

For more information visit tedjonesharp.com.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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