Jessica Jones grew up singing, encouraged by her mother, a pianist, to tap into her love of music.
But that love blossomed into full-blown passion, paving the way for a successful career, when she discovered classical singing in high school.
At 15, she auditioned for “The Marriage of Figaro” at the urging of her high school voice teacher and was cast as Barbarina. The production was directed by esteemed late soprano Kristine Ciesinski — Jones’ teacher’s own mentor — and Jones credits the experience as the moment she “absolutely fell in love” with opera.
“I was lucky to have found my calling early on,” she says. “I had never heard anyone sing so passionately before. It truly inspired me.”
From there, doors began to swing open.
Jones came to the University of Houston to study with Kristine Ciesinski’s sister, Katherine, who was then head of the Moores School of Music’s vocal department. She completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at UH, training in the studios of Katherine Ciesinski and Cynthia Clayton, and gaining invaluable hands-on experience performing in Moores Opera Center productions.
Now an accomplished professional opera singer who has built a career performing across the country, Jones has been nominated for her first Grammy for her performance in “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.”
Written by Mason Bates with libretto by Mark Campbell, and co-commissioned the Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera and Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, the opera premiered in 2017 with Jones as Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Jobs’ first child.
Premiering a new opera and bringing a role to life for the first time — especially one based on a living person — is no small endeavor. But Jones makes it look easy.
She credits her years of training at UH with preparing her to tackle new works with aplomb.
Buck Ross, director of the Moores Opera Center, is a staunch advocate of new works, often presenting contemporary operas — and sometimes even world premieres — each season. During her time at UH, Jones performed in several contemporary operas, including “The Ghost of Versailles,” “The Turn of the Screw” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”
“Buck saw something in me and gave me these incredible opportunities that were so important to my development as an artist,” Jones says.
Ultimately, with each performance, Jones aims to connect with the audience emotionally. With classical opera, there’s a wealth of resources and historical context to inform each role. But contemporary works present a unique — albeit interesting — challenge.
“There are limited resources. With a premiere, there’s no foundation to refer back to. You’re working with the raw material,” she says. “That’s what’s exciting and, in the end, fulfilling.”