Tony Award nominee and “Bull” co-star Christopher Jackson discusses the crucial need for arts education in schools.
As a kid, Christopher Jackson had many interests but no real direction. That would change, thanks to some dedicated instructors.
“I was far more passionate about baseball than I was singing, but what I didn’t quite understand at the time was that seeds had been planted in my spirit that kept me away from the edge of the abyss. I never planned to be an artist, but my participation then pointed me down the path I’ve been on for the past 28 years.”
Finding his passion
Despite his ultimate success as an actor, Jackson performed in only two shows while in high school.
“Most of the exposure to formal theater text came through speech team, which had a spring season where we would go to weekly tournaments. National touring productions of Broadway shows weren’t as popular as they are now. My musical interaction came from playing trumpet in our school band. Our teacher, James Davis, was one of my musical mentors, as was my mom, who’s a teacher and pianist. Playing an instrument — actually making music — was part of every day of my life. That sense of direct interaction was always happening.”
Doing what he loves
For Jackson, performing and making music is a dream come true. But like any good student, he wants to keep learning.
“Improv teaches us to be accepting of an offer — an idea. That I get to play in so many sandboxes, it’s like candy to me. With every endeavor I’ve been blessed to take part in, I try to max out my abilities and approach them like I’ll never get another chance to do it. Even if I fail at something, I’m taking those things, I’ve learned and I’m looking for another chance to apply the lesson into a new situation.”
Empowering through exposure
Jackson, who’s composed music for “Sesame Street,” says it’s critical for kids to have art education woven into their curriculum.
“History, the movement and evolution of societies, has always been either determined or influenced by the artistic expressions of the day. That’s certainly no clearer than in modern culture where we have such a saturation of art and the instant access we share through various technologies. I’ve seen firsthand how effective the EduHam experience has been for thousands of kids across the country. There are so many empowering examples of how artistic experiences can inspire kids to perceive their experience and translate that into all kinds of expressions.”
Performing in Hamilton
It was Jackson’s great passion, and years of research, that prepared him for the role of George Washington in the blockbuster show that catapulted him to stardom.
“The thing I treasure most is that I got to be a part of one of the most talented casts in the history of Broadway. I love that it was so physically challenging. I love that it was greeted with so many high expectations that we worked so very hard to meet. But most of all, I love that it was with my closest friends and collaborators.”
Life after COVID
With things slowly returning to normal, Jackson is looking forward to seeing his fellow artists out in the world, presenting their ideas.
“I’m excited to experience live theater again with my kids and my family. I’m excited to get back on stage and share that same communion I’ve been blessed to share for over two decades.”
Inspiring the next generation
For aspiring performers, Jackson says it’s important to realize the real power isn’t found in accomplishment or “making it” in show business.
“When you’re talking about the arts, the mere searching for forms of expression is the accomplishment. I found my path because of a steady stream of teachers, mentors, coaches, pastors, and choir directors. They watched me grow into the artist I am and made it possible for the world to see the artist I hope to continue to grow into. “