top of page


EDMOND, Okla. -

As a single mother of two, Starla Burkes was determined her kids would be exposed to the road less traveled.

“I started playing cello when I was in the sixth grade,” 14-year-old Taytum Jones said.

Inspired by his sister Trinity, a violinist, Jones gained an appreciation for orchestra.

“I loved the way the cello sounds and continued to play it,” Jones said.

As much as he loves the cello, there is one thing he’s more passionate about.

“I play tennis three hours in the morning and usually later in the evening, if I have time,” Jones said.

Jones started playing tennis at 9 years old. Now, at fourteen, he is one of the best in the nation.

“Currently, I think right now, I’m number 270 in the nation,” Jones said.

A ranking that takes him all over the country.

“I got invited to a national camp in Florida that only invites six people from around the nation for different age groups, so for boys fourteen I’m one of them,” Jones said.

“He is very much a go-getter. He puts his mind to something, and he just goes for it,” Taytum’s mother, Starla Burkes, said.

Burkes said from the beginning she wanted her son to be different.

“I did not want my son to play a sport that was expected of him,” Burkes said.

Even though at most tournaments he is one of the only African Americans, he knows he’s not the first.

Arthur Ashe’s influence on me was to know that even though people judged him by the color of his skin, that just motivated him to be better,” Jones said.  

Impressed by his articulation it comes as no surprise that Jones is a 4.0 student.

“He likes to have at least a ninety five percent in class, and he’s been that way probably since fifth grade,” Burkes said.

What does the fourteen-year-old state champion see in his future?

“My goal would be to go pro, but it’s one step at a time and you have to take those little steps to get to the big prize,” Jones said.

Even with his focus, he does find time to hang out with his friends, play video games and even coach younger tennis players.

Burkes believes she was an example for her children after recently graduating from college as a single mother of two.

bottom of page