Through his time of teaching, Jackson believes the most important part has been the relationships he has developed with his students. Even though he is tough, a simple ‘thank you’ note left on his desk can make him break down with emotion. Those are the moments he will miss about being a teacher.
“I want my students to feel that I have their best interest like they’re my kids,” Jackson said. “Sometimes I’m a tough teacher, but I keep the bar high. My student may not be a Juilliard violinist, but I know they will go out and be great at whatever they do. I am convinced of that. There is something in the atmosphere of the program that gives them a background to be great, and that's why they stay in the program.”
Along with relationships comes musical achievements. Jackson believes it is an achievement within itself for the KSD public school program to compete anywhere in the U.S. and hold its own. Jackson said although KHS may not be a magnet school or audition school, families travel from around the country to attend KHS for its orchestra program. Because so many students in the district have this opportunity, Jackson believes students learn and grow to understand a diverse selection of music through their time in the program.
“[The music] makes me feel like we are saying something, and we try to capture what the composer intended in such a way that its awe struck,” Jackson said.
After a long career, Jackson credits his success to his background in music. He grew up wanting to be just like his grandfather who played the guitar and sang blues at Saturday night gigs. The conductor believes this environment influenced him to go into music himself. Jackson said he was not like other kids who played with toys, he just wanted to play on his toy guitar. Jackson said his grandparents supported him partly to see another generation play a string instrument.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Jackson
“Growing up in a musical atmosphere, you don’t know anything different,” Jackson said. “I was consumed with music and only wanted to do that. I would stay up ‘til midnight in high school practicing. My grandparents never told me to be quiet, or to practice more. I did it on my own and worked really hard. I still try to seek and find new ways to improve my playing level and help my students.”
Jackson still lives in a musical atmosphere. His wife was a piano major in college and their daughter is a cello professor at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. He is the grandfather of a little boy and girl, both who Jackson said will be encouraged to play an instrument. The boy is almost 3 and already fascinated with piano, but Jackson said he will see where it goes from there.
“I really think students have respect for me, but I want them to know I have respect for them,” Jackson said. “It may not all the time come across like that, but I want them to feel like they have a voice. We may not agree all the time, but I want them to know I would listen to them.”
Although retirement means more time with family, Jackson said he gets very emotional talking to colleagues about his next stage of life. He said it is triumphant and emotional to imagine his first freshman class to his current students and the journey in between. Although he is leaving this program, he still has high expectations for the future of the orchestra.
“I hope [the program] maintains the current [playing] level or gets higher,” Jackson said. “[I hope] it continues to provide opportunities for all walks of students. There is a place here in the orchestra program for all students if they want to be a musician, journalist or even a lawyer.”
The day will come when it is time to hang up his red kimono, but the red and white Kirkwood pride will always be a part of Patrick Jackson.