Mobile Actress Takes Stage at South


Posted on September 21, 2020
Thomas Becnel


Jhalana Jones, who has performed in local theater, is studying music education at the University of South Alabama. "We have this teacher, Dr. Thomas Rowell, who is a hoot-and-a-half. He lets us know we're not just his students, we're his people." data-lightbox='featured'
Jhalana Jones, who has performed in local theater, is studying music education at the University of South Alabama. "We have this teacher, Dr. Thomas Rowell, who is a hoot-and-a-half. He lets us know we're not just his students, we're his people."

#FreshmanFocus is a series focused on incoming freshmen at the University of South Alabama. 

When Jhalana Jones takes the stage, performing in school plays or community theater, the University of South Alabama freshman thinks of her older sister, Jameya Becoats, who died of pneumonia in 2014.

“It’s a way for us to still be connected,” Jones says. “I always make sure that I dedicate everything I do to her.”

The girls grew up singing in the Greater Vision of Faith Church. Jhalana went on to appear in productions at Baker High School, the Mobile Theatre Guild and the Joe Jefferson Playhouse.

She acted in plays such as “Macbeth” and sang in musicals such as “Hairspray” and “Cabaret.” Her biggest part was the title role in “Aida.”

After graduating from Baker High in 2019, Jones took a gap year before enrolling in music education at the University of South Alabama.

“I think it was good for me,” she says. “It gave me time to get my stuff together and delve into why I wanted to go to college.”

Now she’s taking a lone history class to go along with a full music schedule – piano, vocal diction, concert choir and opera theatre. Her part-time job is making appearances as Tiana, the Disney character from “The Princess and the Frog,” at fundraisers and birthday parties.

“It’s really fun and the kids love it,” she says. “You get to go to these parties and you’re a princess and the kids are over the moon for you.”

Eight Questions for Jhalana Jones

What are your first impressions of South?

“I’m starting to realize just how big the South campus is. There’s pretty scenery and the people are really nice and helpful. It is different than I thought it would be. In high school, they pretty much hold your hand and lead you through everything. Here, they really put an emphasis on learning to learn, and knowing when you need help, and being the best you.”

What’s your best story so far?

“Well, on the day before my first class, I scoped out everywhere I needed to go, but then on the actual day of class, I tried a short cut and was half an hour late. I was walking around in circles.”

How are your classes?

“The most fun is opera theatre. We have this teacher, Dr. Thomas Rowell, who is a hoot-and-a-half. He brings a lot of enthusiasm to class. He lets us know we’re not just his students, we’re his people, and we’re going to have some fun.”

What have you learned from being a student during a pandemic?

“Definitely, how to adjust to new things. It’s taught me a lot about time management and finding balance. That’s something I was seeking, anyway – balance.”

Your favorite spot on campus?

“Underneath the bell tower. It’s really nice to look out over the fountains. It’s a good place to clear your mind. Sometimes you can hear people playing music across campus.”

Do you have any hidden talents?

“I am the queen of not following the recipe on cooking things, or baking things, and still coming out on top.”

Where do you see yourself five years after graduation?

“I want to travel, I know that. I want to get out of Mobile and show what I’ve learned here. I’ve had my heart set on Europe, but we’ll see how things go.”

Fill in the blank. South is ___.

“Beautiful. A great place to be.”


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