Byron Jones Biography

Byron Jones
Beloved Teacher, Conductor, Baritone and Great Grandfather
May 13, 1925 – February 4, 2014 

To be born Welsh
Is to be born privileged.
Not with a silver spoon in your mouth,
But music in your blood
And poetry in your soul.

Byron Jones devoted his life to spreading his love of people and music as far and wide as possible. Born in the Rhondda Valley, Wales, the son of Ada and Oliver Jones, the family immigrated to the U.S. in 1927 and settled in Berkeley, CA. Father Oliver was a professional opera singer and radio entertainer and Mother Ada sang songs of the “old country” in a naturally beautiful soprano. Byron inherited his strict professional discipline from his mother and dearly loved his sisters, Mair and Gwenellen.  On his eighteenth birthday, Byron joined the U.S. Coast Guard and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II aboard the troop transport ship, the USS Leonard Wood and was on the beach on Leyte in the Philippines as General MacArthur came ashore on his famous return. Assigned to the Coast Guard Band playing the cornet he found onboard ship, he toured the U.S. for the War Fund. After the war, he graduated from San Francisco State University with a Masters in Music and a Minor in French. He taught vocal music at Turlock High School, CA before being hired by Hugo Rinaldi to teach vocal music throughout the San Rafael City Schools, which he did for thirty-five years. At San Rafael High School, Byron also taught French and English and spent countless after-school hours rehearsing for the annual student musicals, such as “My Fair Lady” and “West Side Story.” The lives of thousands of kids were enriched by the example he set by living his commitment to the joy of music. Many former students chose music as a profession. Appreciative students presented him with a personalized license plate inspired by one of his expressions, “What a Guy!” In 2011, a plaque was added to the Wall of Fame at San Rafael High School honoring his exemplary teaching.

Byron was Music Director of the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael for forty years. A consummate recital artist, he produced the annual Music Fund Concerts at the church for thirty years, featuring young artists and emerging composers. He was proud to have been a baritone soloist for Temple Rodef Shalom in San Rafael and for Temple Emmanuel in San Francisco for a total of 50 years. He earned laudable reviews for his performances in oratorios, at The Lamplighters and several California opera companies, which included a starring role in “Casey at the Bat” with the Boston Pops, conducted by Arthur Fielder. Over the thirteen years that he vacationed with his family every summer in Yosemite National Park, he sang on the stage at Camp Curry during the nightly Fire Fall from Glacier Point. Following his father’s lead, he joined the Masons and was a member of San Rafael’s Lodge No. 191. Words and languages fascinated Byron. He wrote playful and passionate poetry and composed choral and instrumental music. He particularly enjoyed learning greetings and words of gratitude in many languages.

After retiring from teaching, Byron joined the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitation District Non-Marching Band (The Sewer Band) and resumed playing his cornet. An avid sports fan he was thrilled to sing the National Anthem at Candlestick Park before the Giants and their fans in 1993. As a volunteer, Byron played the piano, sang and told stories at retirement and convalescent homes throughout Marin County such as Alma Via, Drake Terrace, Pine Ridge, Country Villa, Wind Chimes, Fifth Avenue, Golden Home, The Redwoods and his own retirement home, Nazareth House in San Rafael. He boasted a song list of over 100 songs he knew by heart and could play by ear.

Byron is survived by Jacqueline Thomas Jones of Larkspur, whom he married in 1952, and two children, Rebecca Olivia Jones of San Rafael and Byron Will Jones of Bend, Oregon. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Hilary Lewis Strocco of San Diego, Savanna Jones of Bend, Oregon, and Evan Jones of Salt Lake City, Utah; two great-grandchildren, Sterling and Scarlett Strocco; his sister, Gwenellen Pemberton of Rocklin; nieces Glenys Anderson of Chico, Deanne Willhoft of Antioch, Kari Nielsen of Grass Valley and nephews Phil Heuchert of Orland, and Richard Duvall of Forest Grove, Oregon, in addition to numerous members of the extended Thomas and Jones families throughout the U.S. and in Wales.

In lieu of flowers, a non-tax deductible donation may be sent to:

Byron Jones Memorial Music Scholarship Fund 14 Lynn Court, San Rafael, CA 94901.
Friends of Nazareth House, 245 Nova Albion Way, San Rafael, CA 94903
Friends of Marin County Schools Volunteers, P.O. Box 4925, San Rafael, CA 94913.


  1. The other day I was watching the Grammy awards and they presented a new award to Music Educator of the year. They mentioned that they seek nominations from anyone for this award and instantly I thought of Byron Jones. I graduated from San Rafael High School in 1979 and I never was in band or any music group but everyone in San Rafael knew Mr. Jones. I believe I first met him when I was at Davidson. If there was something to do with music Mr. Jones was there. I was learning to play guitar in grade school and high school and was just enjoying playing music. To see the passion and joy Mr. Jones put into playing, whenever he was playing, was inspiring. He was always very respectful to the students and everyone, I mean everyone, loved him. When I saw the Music Educator award I decided I would nominate Byron Jones. Music education is so important and there are many, many people like Mr. Jones who should be recognized but who won't because the award wasn't around at the time. I "googled" Byron Jones today (Feb. 5, 2014) to see if he was around and got this very sad news. I was wondering why the name Byron Jones popped into my head more than thirty years after I last saw him. Now I know why. Rest in peace, Byron Jones.

  2. A life fully lived. A powerful man with an enormous gift which he shared genorously. We are all lifted up by the fact that he moved on this earth. Prayers for his family and for all who called him friend.

  3. I was a student at San Rafael High (1964) and had the extreme pleasure of being taught A Capella Choir by Byron Jones. Three decades later I had the pleasant surprise of singing with him as a fellow soloist in a Messiah concert. A life well lived.

  4. Byron Jones was my chorus teacher at Davidson Middle School (1982-1985) and he inspired in me a love of singing that I hold today. He loved his students and encouraged them with humor and joy. Best wishes to his family and to all who will miss him.

  5. Byron was truly a musical inspiration to my entire family and will be dearly missed. Both my sister (Martine) and I had chorus with him throughout the 1980's both at Davidson and at San Rafael High. I then continued on with him privately at his home into the early 90's. We shared so many good times together and like Richard who posted above.. the strangest thing happen just the other day as I decided to back-up dozens of rare cassette recordings I've keep over 20 years digitally to my hard drive when I came across my voice lesson sessions with Byron. I still am smiling now and know everyone else is smiling when we think of our memories with Byron. He truly inspired me and I thank him to this day as I work in the music industry professional both as an artist and label owner. Viva la musique Byron !

  6. Byron singing "O Holy Night" with his daughter was a special Christmas tradition- what an amazing voice! Growing up at First Pres and admiring the beauty of the music he created- I was thrilled when I was finally old enough to sing in the youth choir! You will be missed, Byron.

  7. Byron was a wonderful teacher and a great friend and mentor. The family is in our thoughts at this time. From Victor Adams, Worshipful Master of the Marin Lodge #191 Free and Accepted masons.

  8. "Mr. Jones" taught me to love singing, how to harmonize, and wonderful it can be to life up one's voice as part of a choir. I still think of him often and will probably do so forever as I still love all the warm-up songs he taught us at SRHC (Danny Boy, Old Man River, Sleep my Child…etc.) May he rest in peace and may we all give back to the world (in whatever way possible) as he gave to us. Class of '66.


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