2014 Lycoming Winter Magazine - page 18

t’s easy to tell when Lycoming College’s new choir director,
Christopher Jackson, D.M.A., gets excited: His cheeks
jump, his blue eyes light up and energy — kindled by his
shock of red hair — ignites the room. Upon meeting him,
one would think that Jackson was one of those children that
bounced off walls and pushed surrounding adults to their
limits. But the truth is quite the opposite.
“I was naturally pretty introverted, pretty quiet,” Jackson
said. “But, for a variety of reasons, teaching required me to do
something different. That energy I give off is a skill I learned to
make music more of an engaging activity.”
The energy is felt almost immediately for anyone walking
around campus with Jackson, who is routinely greeted by
eager students and often has them crowding his office doorway
in Clarke Chapel. But it is most acutely experienced in the
classroom, where Jackson said his enthusiasm presses students
to actively participate or head for the hills.
“I’m way too annoying for them to put up with me for very
long,” he said. “If they just want to sit on their butts and not
do anything, they don’t have fun. I ask for such a high level of
participation that, generally, I can annoy them into either getting
on board or deciding that they don’t want to put up with me.”
Fortunately, at Lycoming, he doesn’t usually have to worry
about unmotivated students. Most of them are musically
experienced and were attracted to the choir because of its storied
tradition, one built around his two predecessors, Walter McIver
and Fred Thayer, who are responsible for shaping the program
that was started in 1947.
“I could probably write a book based on everything that
people have told me about Walter McIver and Fred Thayer,” he
said. “It’s inspiring and it’s also a little daunting. It almost feels
like being the third president of the United States or something.
I’ve actually never been a part of a choir that has been this
strong in its traditions.”
Jackson, who comes from a musical family, earned a
bachelor’s in voice performance from Oklahoma State
University, a master’s in choral conducting from Westminster
Choir College and a doctorate in choral conducting from the
University of North Texas. His mother played flute and piano
when she was younger and always had the radio playing. And his
father, who sang in college, would pop in a Beethoven cassette
for long car rides.
“We could both whistle the whole thing from beginning to
end – just because we had listened to it so many times,” Jackson
said. “My parents had musical bones in their bodies, but they
never had the opportunity to make a career out of it. They had to
work early in their lives to support their families.”
Jackson is ready to use the work ethic he learned from his
parents to take Lycoming’s music department to new heights by
building on its strong traditions.
“The choir has enough support from alumni and
administration and is potentially talented enough to perform at
some important conferences and festivals,” he said. “I felt that,
even when I auditioned last year. That’s a big goal of mine – to
get us ready to audition for high-profile events and to show
people that we can do it.”
Some of his other objectives include integrating the choir
with the Williamsport community and organizing more
performances in area schools in order to get young students
thinking about Lycoming and its music programs. He said that
the more connected Lycoming is to the area, the better it is for
And, as always with Jackson, it all comes back to energy.
“When you have a community that comes together and puts
energy into creating something, even if it’s just a better sense of
community, then the benefits are boundless.”
“When I show enthusiasm and energy, students buy in with their enthusiasm and energy and learning happens faster.”
Christopher Jackson
By Matthew Parrish ’06
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