Composer and music producer Quincy Jones has been honored with more awards than he can count, among them seven Oscar nominations, 79 Grammy nominations — more than any other artist — and 27 Grammy Awards. He’s also received a dozen honorary degrees.
But he says the “Mentor of the Year” award presented to him by Harvard University’s School of Public Health on Wednesday as part of National Mentoring Month is “unique and especially gratifying.”
“People that I meet from all over the world tell me that they love my music and that it has inspired them in many ways,” Jones said during a recent telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “But when they mention they’re moved to do humanitarian efforts because of projects that they’ve seen me involved with, that genuinely means a lot to me,” said Jones, who traveled to South Africa with Oprah Winfrey for the opening of her school for girls.
Jones recently partnered with Harvard to form his “Project” venture, which strives to improve the health and well-being of children worldwide.
“Throughout my career, so many people took the time and put me on their shoulders and guided me,” said Jones, who began in the music industry when he was only 13. “It’s just a natural reaction for me to help people and try to bring about positive change. I think so many of our young people need strong role models and mentors in their lives.”
Jones, who was born in Chicago and grew up in Seattle, says one of the many people who guided him was the late Ray Charles. The singer, along with Clint Eastwood, Sting and Maya Angelou, are featured in a national public service campaign for mentor recruitment that was filmed before Charles died.
While it would seem like the 73-year-old Jones might be ready to slow down, the feisty maestro — who has produced and collaborated with Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie and Michael Jackson — said, “not just yet.”
He recently was named the Culture and Art Consultant to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and will join directors Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee as an advisor on the creation of opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.
He says he’s almost finished a volume he’s writing about the genesis of blues and jazz music. “This book has been near and dear to me,” he said. “I’ve been working on it for nearly 30 years.”
And could another album from Jones be in the works too? “Yes absolutely,” he said. “Music is everything to me. That’s what motivates me and has kept me so young and around this long.”