She started singing and playing the piano at age 4. With fifth grade came band where she now plays the flute and piccolo in the concert band then moves over to the tenor saxophone section for the jazz band. And, of course, there is the school choir, where Jackson's teacher Nora Fuchs says she excels.
Now Fuchs isn't the only music teacher to know about the Sikeston High School junior's musical ability. Jackson and Tyler Flaker, also a junior, were participants in the 67th annual Missouri Music Educators Association Conference as members of the 2005 Missouri All-State Choir. Named as an alternate to the statewide choir was New Madrid County Central High School senior Shelonna Comer.
While the state choir's performance was Jan. 26 at Tan-Tar-A Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks, the three high school students began their preparation months before. Last fall students from a 10-county area, representing 30 schools, auditioned to perform in the district choir. During All-District Choir rehearsals in November, juniors and seniors were eligible to try out for the All-State Choir.
The requirements for the District Choir included a prepared solo and sight-
The names of those chosen for the All-State Choir were announced the evening of the All-District Concert.
Their selection, agreed Fuchs and Comer's music teacher Judy Henry, is a blend of musicianship and hard work. "They are very dedicated, they work hard, they do all the extra stuff you want them to do. Both are outstanding students. They are motivated, driven, they go way beyond regular choir requirements. And both being juniors, they have excellent chance to be in the All-State Choir next year," said Fuchs about Jackson and Flaker.
Describing Comer as not just an excellent musician, Henry added, "she is an all-round excellent person."
Jackson, a soprano, said when she tried out for All-District Choir it was with the idea of preparing for the All-State competition. "I wanted to get to a higher level of music - more difficult music," she explained. "And it is an opportunity to be with people who want to be there and will work just as hard as I will to get stuff accomplished."
And there is a lot of hard work. Fuchs estimated the singers rehearsed 10 to 12 hours at Sikeston and Jackson on the first weekends in January to prepare their music. Comer, although an alternate, was at the rehearsals as well, learning the music. Also the students worked with their individual teachers to learn their parts
"The music was hard at first," said Comer and Jackson. But the rehearsals soon made it familiar. One of their performance pieces was written by the All-
State Choir's guest conductor, Bob Chilcott of the Royal College of Music of Cambridge, England. A noted singer in his own right and the principal guest conductor of the BBC Singers, Chilcott wanted the students to perform one of his pieces which Fuchs described as five pieces in one.
"It had a lot of different rhythms and pitches. The music was hard and he knew exactly how he wanted it performed," she said.
Flaker, a tenor, recalled the long practices which it took to perfect their performance, once the choir members were combined from across the state.
"It was hard because we practiced eight hours a day and after awhile your voice starts to get tired," he said. "One time we started at 8 o'clock in the morning - which was really early - and we didn't finish until 10 o'clock at night."
The practice paid off. "A choir of that size sounds like a vocal orchestra. You can 't believe the sound come from 200 voices - it's an amazing, unique sound. . . almost overwhelming," Fuchs said of their performance.
And when the concert ended, the lessons remained.
The three students talked about how much they learned from participating.
Flaker noted the singers had the same goals. "Everyone wanted to learn and wanted to sing well. It was a lot of fun to sing with people that cared and were fast learners."
Jackson said her phrasing improved and she learned what to emphasize in the music.
"I learned a lot about music and a lot about the people I met - there were a lot of really cool people involved," said Comer.
That, said Fuchs, is what the choir and the music is all about. "I think it is life experience - not just music - they learn a lot about life about self - discipline, reaching for a higher level, making your ambition to be even higher."