Ensuring a promising future

For professor emeritus J-P Christopher Jackson, it was the notes on a page of sheet music that awakened a lifelong love of music, motivated a successful career at the University of Lethbridge and inspired a gift that will leave a legacy.

Growing up playing woodwinds in Oklahoma City, Jackson attended his hometown university with the intention of becoming an orchestral musician.

"However, during my undergraduate studies I did work in theory and music history and discovered my interest in music went beyond a performance level."

He began considering musicology, a more scholarly study of music, which looks at the historical, cultural and sociological implications of the composition.

J-P Jackson
Pictured with J-P Christopher Jackson (front, middle) are Glenn Klassen, conductor and music director of the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra, John Reid, director of the Canadian Music Centre - Prairie Division and Dawn Leite, manager of the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra.

"Suddenly I was looking at more of an academic career rather than a performance career," says Jackson, who started investigating graduate opportunities and eventually secured a prestigious fellowship to Washington University in St. Louis, where he would complete both a masters and a PhD.

It was here that Jackson was first introduced to performance practice.

"Performance practice is the attempt to get at how the music of a certain period would have been performed at the time it was written," explains Jackson. "I thought it made music make more sense when it was played on the instruments for which it was intended."

Being interested in the history and development of instruments and music compositions didn't mean that Jackson wasn't still a performer at heart.

"I began setting up performance ensembles," says Jackson, who took it on himself to learn many of the instruments needed in various pieces. "I co-ordinated the players, chose the music and decided the direction, but we all worked together on the performance."

Described by one professor as entrepreneurial, Jackson headed up performance ensembles throughout his graduate studies, working with a diverse array of music ranging from the middle ages to contemporary pieces. The experience allowed him to further develop his skills in performance, composition and musicology. When he began looking for work after graduation, he knew he wanted a position that would grant him the flexibility and freedom to continue exploring.

"It was always my dream to teach in a smaller liberal arts university in order to be able to pursue my multidisciplinary interests. The position at the University of Lethbridge was a dream come true," says Jackson, who was hired in the music department in 1975 and from that point on made Canada his home.

During his time at the U of L, Jackson taught a variety of courses and was also involved in administration. His research included the study of the classical music of Indonesia and other world cultures, offering a whole new program of study within the department of music. Learning the languages, cultures and arts of distant lands enriched Jackson's life immensely.

Originally attracted by the U of L's liberal arts philosophy, Jackson continued to be an advocate for a multidisciplinary approach to learning, and took full advantage of the opportunity to work with colleagues in other disciplines.

"How could I work in the music department and write vocal music and not use the poetry written by faculty in the English department?" asks Jackson, whose compositions often used the work of others as a starting point.

Jackson wrote many pieces for the artists around him and worked with a variety of professionals including playwrights, poets and paleontologists. He believes the diverse influences on his work made him a better artist.

"My time at the U of L was truly a gift," says Jackson, who retired in 2000 due to health reasons.

Considering himself lucky, Jackson wanted to return the favour and make a gift to the U of L that demonstrated his appreciation for a successful 25-year career. With no living relatives, Jackson and his partner, Ray Robertson, decided to make an allowance in their will for the University.

"A gift like this allows me to continue the type of work I think is important," explains Jackson, whose estate will create an endowment to provide scholarships for music students. "It is a gift repaid in perpetuity with all my gratitude."

For more information on making a legacy gift, visit or call 403-329-2582.

This story first appeared in the Legend. For a look at the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.