Jon grew up in Tallmadge, a small suburb of Akron, Ohio. One of his earliest passions was traveling with his dad on game weekends to Columbus, Ohio to partake in the football culture and watch the 225 member, all brass and percussion marching band of Ohio State, which for him would become an obsession and aspiration. During these trips, little Jon first witnessed the Buckeye marching band display “Script Ohio,” an iconic formation where the band transforms into an inky pen spelling out “Ohio” in cursive across the entirety of the field. Each game, one of the senior sousaphone players makes a crazy strut to the top of the ‘i’ to complete the formation. Already by this time, as a mere second grader, Jon had his eye on “dotting the i” one day.
In the trajectory towards this first dream, Jon entered band at school when he was ten. “Trumpet sounds good, feels good.” That was the beginning of his journey with brass.
Fifth grade through middle school, Jon played the trumpet in band without outside private instruction. “My musical existence was church by ear and school band.” In seventh grade he learned how to play concert tuba, which put him one step closer to dotting that “i”. He then carried the tuba into high school marching band, reserving the trumpet for jazz band and church. By eighth grade, he stopped taking formal piano lessons and mostly played when he found a song he liked, whether from church or some Ben Folds record. His serious training was put into the trumpet and tuba.
When it came time for college, he felt this unconscious pressure to go to school to be a lawyer or doctor. He had good grades and could make any life for himself he chose. “The only person to encourage a musical life was my high school band director, the only one.” Jon’s singular application was sent out to Ohio State where he spent his first year studying Psychology and Pre-Med while marching in the band he had set his eyes on since he was six or seven. “The first year was incredible. We marched in President Obama’s first inaugural parade in DC.” That initial year, he lived in arts housing, which drew him closer to the question of what he really wanted to do in life. “I feel like i’m not studying what my ultimate purpose is,” Jon found himself saying. He knew deep down that he wanted to make music his life. “It is hard when your family is trying to talk you out of it,” he tells me, but he had faith enough in what he loved to apply for the music program, which was an entirely separate endeavor from the marching band.
Behind in music theory, Jon’s second year at Ohio State was spent playing catch up as Music Major. His trumpet had only come out for church once a week and the tuba was strictly played in marching band. And until this time, “65 to 70 percent” of his playing was by ear. While playing catch up, Jon found his second wind of inspiration. Two musicians on campus caught his attention: Dan White, an RA in his building whom he met in first year, and a fellow musician named Chris Ott. “They were amazing musicians trying to do stuff . . . write things and do stuff other than just just get a degree.”
Jon’s first chance to play with Dan and Chris came when he was placed in the Art Blankey Combo group, a music group in the School of Music. Soon enough, Jon entered their friend circle and the three of them started playing music together. The band was the Dan White Sextet. Dan wrote the music in the first year. Chris and Jon began contributing tunes in the second year. As the group began to grow a following, they recorded three projects together as a band.
Jon continued marching band while pursuing his Music Degree. When he made it to his senior year as a Buckeye, he finally got his chance to dot the ‘i’ at halftime . . . twice. That’s a satisfying dream come true.