Gregory Jermaine Jackson (born September 24, 1976, Des Moines, Iowa) is an American composer, percussionist, and professor. Recognized for composing a large majority of work in the percussion idiom, Jackson is also known for his chamber works and larger compositions for the orchestra. Early influences include Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and Liszt. More recently, influences have come from the works of Shostakovich and Stravinksy. Although there is a strong sense of Romanticism in Jackson's compositions, there are many pieces that have some experimental tendencies with rhythm and line. His percussion works reveal a strong grasp of idiomatic writing for percussion, but the non-percussion works have been received with great appeal. He is a member of BMI.
Gregory Jackson is the son of Jacqueline Moody Perkins and the late William Jackson, and Greg is the brother to Nicole Jackson Williams and the son of his late step father Bobby Perkins. He began studying music in school at the age of 10 in Clarksville, Tennessee. It was immediately apparent the great potential he had as a child. Several local contests were won during these early years and he even started his first professional performances at the age of 12, as well as beginning piano lessons. At the age of 15, Jackson began to focus on marimba and his first attempts at composition. His private teachers during this time included Brian Glass, Bart Dixon, and Ed Kearns. Most of these composition attempts were in the marching percussion genre. One of the most emotionally straining events took place March 1992 when his stepfather, Ezell "Bobby" Perkins passed away. In 1994, Jackson graduated from Northeast High School in Clarksville, TN and days after graduation began his collegiate studies at Austin Peay State University at the age of 17. Jackson started as a music education major with an emphasis in percussion under David Steinquest in Clarksville, TN and began his first classes in music theory. As a student at Austin Peay, Jackson worked with Michael Burritt during a masterclass.
During his sophomore year, Gregory Jackson had his first formal composition classes from his theory teacher at the time, Dr. Jeffrey Wood. Dr. Wood studied composition under Richard Hoffman and David Lewin and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for the oratorio Lamentationes Ieremiæ Prophetæ [Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah]. Wood became the professor to mold the composer's voice. Many called Jackson a natural at percussion, which could be the reason he didn't commit as much time in the practice room as he should. There were occasions when Jackson was not prepared for a percussion lesson, but he was able to sightread the music on the spot. Wood, however, would not tolerate this behavior. The stern teaching is exactly what Jackson needed to become a more serious student. He would sometimes compose until 4 a.m. before getting a few hours of sleep and then go to his classes. During this period many short piano works came about, including Op. 3 which was inspired by a work of Francis Poulenc.
He was a member of Eklipse Percussion Ensemble based out of Hopkinsville, KY in 1999 as a performing member. The group was a finalist at the Winter Guard International World Championships. Later Jackson would return as an instructor for Eklipse in 2001 and the group went on to win the Open Class World Championship for Winter Guard International. In 1999, Jackson completed his Senior Composition recital, and was the first traditional student at Austin Peay State University to ever complete the composition program in May, 2000. This was a pivotal year as he met two professors that would help him greatly, Dr. Cedric Dent of Take 6 and Dr. Frederic Goossen. Dr. Goossen would later recommend Jackson to be admitted into The University of Alabama's composition program after University of Memphis denied acceptance into their program due to lack of available spots. In 2000, Jackson entered the Master's program and began studying composition and theory under Dr. William Marvin Johnson, who was a student of Milton Babbitt and Peter Westagaard while in graduate school at Princeton University. Jackson would later study with Dr. Craig P. First, who studied under Pulitzer Prize winning composer Shulamit Ran. In 2000 and 2001, Jackson studied under Sir Harrison Birtwistle, who was the Endowed Chairholder in Music Composition at The University of Alabama <http://www.musicianguide.com/biographies/1608003326/Harrison-Birtwistle.html?&$NMW_TRANS$=ext>.
Jackson premiered many new works for his graduate composition recital and graduated in May of 2003 as University of Alabama's first and only African-American graduate in Composition and Music Theory. He also had his first publication, Trio Op. 25 published by The University of Alabama Press. He would later become a doctoral fellow from the Southern Regional Education Board as the first musician to ever receive the fellowship. While working on a Doctorate of Musical Arts, Jackson's main professor was Larry Mathis, a graduate of Julliard. He would also have the opportunity to receive private lessons from Nancy Zeltsman, She-e Wu, and Tomas Cruz. Although pursuing a degree in Percussion Performance, Jackson was still active as a composer and resumed private lessons with First and Johnson. Each of the three doctoral recitals featured some of Jackson's compositions. He also competed in several international competitions, including the Percussive Arts Society International Convention's Collegiate Competition. In 2004 and 2005 Jackson placed in the top 4 and was in the top 10 between 2002-2006.
In 2006, Jackson developed a technique known as the Synergy Method and authored his dissertation on the subject, which was published by The University of Alabama Press. While completing the editing process, in August 2007 Jackson was hired by Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama as Assistant Professor of Percussion. In August of 2008, Jackson completed his Doctoral studies and received more responsibilities at Alabama State University where he would eventually teach ear-training, Theory, Form and Analysis, and Composition. He then married Autumn Marie Murillo in November 2008.
At the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in 2011, Jackson performed with his tumbadora teacher Tomas Cruz during Cruz's clinic. In 2012 at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, he had one of his works, Prometheus and Pandora's Rhapsody Op. 49, premiered. Emil Richards attended this performance and told Jackson it was an incredibly beautiful work. It was at this time he attended the Percussive Arts Society Composition Committee meeting and became a committee member July 2013. There have been many major performances Jackson has had, but one of the more notable performances occurred in February 2013 with So Percussion during a concert series in Montgomery and Jackson opened for the band Chicago at the Montgomery Performing Arts Center in October of 2011.
Larry Mathis called Jackson's first book, The Synergy Method for Drumming, the new staple in percussion literature. He also had a collection of marimba works published a year later, and a set of timpani etudes as a tribute to the late Elliot Carter's timpani etudes published by Linus Publications in August 2013. After studying with Dr. David Durant at The University of Alabama, Jackson composed a few electronic works as well. Most of his compositions are for soloists and chamber ensembles. Jackson also composed music for a theatrical performance in 2010 that was performed at the Kennedy Center. His concerto "Unfinished Dream" was nominated for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in music. Jackson's Chamber piece "Mark of Cain" was a semi-finalist for the American Prize in chamber composition.
Symphony No. 1, completed in May 2013, follows a traditional structure inspired by the symphonies of Beethoven. Jackson even waited to compose his first symphony until he was working on his 55th work because he felt Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, Op. 55 was such a pivotal work. The harmonic progression used is i-N6-V-i, which is also the way Jackson organized the tonal areas for each of the four movements. Other than Beethoven, influences for this symphony came from Mahler and Stravinsky. Possibly the biggest influence came from the symphonies of Shostakovich. Jackson is one of only a few African-American composers to use the traditional multi-movement Symphonic form. Jackson completed his first String Quartet in July 2013 and has composed a total of 3. Recently, Jackson completed Symphony No. 3, a work based on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Many characterize Jackson's composition style as Neo-Romantic, but Jackson does not tag any of his works with one particular style. He believes that each composition is different from the next and employs any manner of compositional techniques he has studied. The bulk of his compositions, however, are tonal. Most of Jackson's time as a student while earning his Master's in Music was spent studying Bela Bartok's Mikrokosmos. These exercises helped Jackson to concentrate on the melodic line in his compositions and counterpoint. Frederic Goossen told Jackson that he can definitely write a great melody. Jackson's compositions express a variety of moods from powerful and aggressive to subtle and sublime. His percussion background attributes to many of his pieces having a highly rhythmic element.
As part of his doctoral studies, Jackson created and developed the Synergy Method. <The Synergy Method for Drumming> Many could not believe the depth within this book. Murray Gusseck called the book massive. The Synergy Method is the combination of traditional techniques along with various scientific studies including psychophysiology, kinesiology, physiology, and biomechanical thought processing. He also combines previous percussion techniques including Moeller and Velocity to take advantage of the best of each technique, while discarding the limiting factors of the aforementioned techniques. Later he would apply this concept to playing hand percussion and published the book Congas Full Circle. He also adapted the Synergy technique to marimba and published the book The Synergy Method for Marimba. The marimba book was inspired by Leigh Howard Stevens, and Jackson even showed the book to Stevens the day it was published. Stevens was impressed by the large quantity of exercises.
Jackson's first solo recording, The Darkest Hour, contained many of his compositions for marimba. He also recorded an instructional DVD, Elements of Synergy, and a performance/instructional DVD, Congas Decoded. In January 2011 he released the CD, Conga Fantasy, as well as a live concert recording, Osmosis, along with a DVD of the event by the same title. Another recording of Jackson's compositions is set for Fall 2013.