Charles Jones was born in Tamworth, Ontario, Canada on June 21, 1910. At the age of ten he moved to Toronto where he studied the violin and music theory. In 1928 he went to New York City and studied at the Institute of Musical Art with Sascha Jacobson. He graduated in 1932 as a violinist.
In 1935 Jones entered the Juilliard School on a fellowship. He studied composition with Bernard Wagenaar and graduated in 1939. He began teaching at Mills College in California. There he met fellow teacher, the French composer Darius Milhaud. This began both a lifelong friendship and thirty year collegial teaching relationship between the two composers, first at Mills College then at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, and finally at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. Whereas Milhaud retired from teaching in America in 1969, Jones continued at the Aspen Music Festival as composer-in-residence until 1989.
In 1946, Jones and his wife moved from California to New York. He taught at the Juilliard School beginning in 1954, and later at the Mannes College of Music. He also taught briefly at the Salzburg Seminar in Austria and at the Bryanston School in England. He died on June 6, 1997.
Admired and respected as a teacher, Jones’s composed some ninety works for many combinations, including four symphonies, nine string quartets, numerous vocal scores and many other combinations. His music was performed in his lifetime by the New York Philharmonic; NBC Symphony; Radiodiffusion, Paris; Brussels Festival; ISCM Festival; Aspen Music Festival; National, San Francisco Symphony, St. Louis, Dallas, Denver, Toledo, and Duluth Symphonies; Gäble Symphony Orchestra for Swedish Radio; Upsala Chamber Orchestra; Suisse Romande Radio; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; and the BBC. His music is recorded on the CRI and Albany labels.