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Four years after picking up viola, dreaming big at Eastman

August 28, 2018
student holding a viola standing in front of Eastman Theatre“I’ve always had dreams about traveling, continuing my education, and pursuing more for myself,” says first-year viola performance major Adrian Jackson. Jackson started playing the viola four years ago and is now pursuing his goals at the Eastman School of Music. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Adrian Jackson ‘22E isn’t shy in listing his goals.

“I want to become the most educated, well rounded performer I can be,” the first-year viola performance major at the Eastman School of Music says. “I want to win competitions, perform in famous halls under major conductors, and show the world my heart through my craft. I want to be great.”

Those are big dreams for someone who didn’t start playing the viola until four years ago, but Jackson is used to overcoming challenges.

“My family wasn’t very good at settling down and staying put for long, largely because of our financial situation,” he says. They moved eight times. “Saying goodbye to close friends became second nature to me.”

No one in his family has ever attended college, and most people in his circle of family and friends have never left their native states. Jackson, who spent most of his youth in Texas, is driven to expand his boundaries.

“I’ve always had dreams about traveling, continuing my education, and pursuing more for myself,” he says.

He chose to take up viola his first year of high school, mainly because he wanted to play an instrument (he had taken some violin lessons in sixth grade) and his school orchestra needed more violists.

“I loved it immediately,” he says. “The viola has a rich, dark, gorgeous tone.”

Jackson’s music teacher suggested he attend a summer camp at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in northwest Michigan before his senior year of high school. He jumped at the chance and says “I loved it so much, I didn’t want to leave.”

So, he didn’t. Jackson successfully auditioned for a spot in the academy’s senior class and received about 90 percent of a full scholarship. He raised the rest through a GoFundMe page, moved 1,400 miles from home, and never looked back.

“I’ve always felt a strong sense of independence, so I didn’t think twice about it,” says Jackson, whose musical idol is violinist Hilary Hahn. “I was blessed to able to attend Interlochen. I took every opportunity given to me and made the most out of every day I was on campus.”

Jackson’s viola teacher at Interlochen was Renee Skerik ‘87E (BM).

“She told me about Eastman’s amazing faculty and all of the successful musicians that graduate from the school,” Jackson says. “When I walked into Kodak Hall on my visit, it was just breathtaking. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. I couldn’t get it out of my head.”

Skerik says Jackson is “a super motivated, high energy and very disciplined student,” with unlimited potential.

“I foresee Adrian achieving his dream of being a professional violist in the top echelon of the music field,” she says.

Jackson wasn’t always as self-assured as he is now. He says that during his audition for Eastman, he was “the most nervous I’ve ever been.”

In the past, he sometimes stood in the way of his own dreams.

“I’ve always lacked confidence and didn’t believe I had what it takes to get into a school like this,” he says. “I was scared I wouldn’t be able to keep up.”

He doesn’t doubt himself anymore.

“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and so is my family,” says Jackson, who will be studying with professor of viola George Taylor. “I’m the first one to go to college. I grew up knowing I didn’t want to stay in Texas. I wanted to pursue higher education and learn as much about my craft as I could. Now, I’m ready.”


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Category: The Arts