Extraordinary Ordinaries: Corpus Christi Catholic teacher helps students find meaning through music

For the music teacher at Corpus Christi Catholic School in Temple Terrace, it's pretty easy for middle schoolers to buy into the guitar and ukulele.

"Nobody is too cool to play the guitar," Matthew Jones told FOX 13. "Nobody is too cool to play the guitar." 

Jones has been a music teacher at Corpus Christi for the past five years. 

"My response has never been, I get that thrill when I see that light in their eyes. It's never been what has really drawn me to it. I genuinely like the kids. This, where I am at right now, this is exactly what I want to be doing. This has everything, every little facet of teaching is something interesting to me," Jones said.

Being a teacher is not surprising since he says it's the ‘family business.’ It's what he's teaching that he never imagined.

Matthew Jones never expected to teach music, but he found his passion and is showing students a new way to see the world

"I started playing the guitar in the 8th grade, so I started late for people who stick with it for a long period of time. I actually wasn't supposed to play the guitar. I was asked if I wanted a guitar for Christmas and said ‘no.’ My brother, who is much more agreeable said, 'Uh, OK.' He got cast in a play, so he couldn't go to the first lesson, so I went to hold his spot, and now I play the guitar, and he doesn't, so that's how that happened. It wasn't that I had some deep connection to the emotion to the music. It was actually the tactile sensation that attracted me to it," Jones said.

Jones has helped grow the music program and with his approach to teaching middle schoolers stringed instruments.

It's made him one of four, out of hundreds across the country, to receive the FACTS Innovative Teacher Award.

"Playing an instrument is not one skill, it's many, many skills. To bring a bunch of kids up to competency of playing music, you have to break down all those skills one by one and shave off all those other skills and just focus on one. Once that's mastered, you can bring in another, bring in another, bring in another. When I started teaching to 20 kids at a time, and it was still working. Still get 20 kids to play as well as a single kid on a private lesson. I said, 'OK, we're really onto something," Jones told FOX 13 News

This award comes with prize money for Jones and the school. He is also giving a presentation to the FACTS conference in Orlando on his innovative teaching style.

Jones will share the philosophy of music that he teaches his children every year that, like all subjects that last a lifetime.

"Kids will ask me, ‘Why do I need to learn math?’ Because you need to know how to do this. ‘Why do I need to know how to do this?’ To get a good job. ‘Why get a job?’ To get money. ‘Why do I need money?’ So you have the time to do the things you want to do that give you joy and fulfillment," Jones explained. "Music answers the question of, ‘What are you going to do with all of your extra time?' The answer to the question, ‘What does music give you?’ It tells you what the whole point is. Why else are we here? At school, we're learning all this stuff so we can be successful in life. Why be successful in life? So you have time for fulfillment and joy. Music and the arts broadly provide that for people."